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[ih-moh-ti-kon] /ɪˈmoʊ tɪˌkɒn/
Computers. a digital icon or a sequence of keyboard symbols that serves to represent a facial expression, as :‐) for a smiling face. Emoticons are used in a digital message or text to convey the writer’s emotions or clarify intent.
Compare smiley, emoji.
Origin of emoticon
1980-85; blend of emotion and icon Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for emoticon
Contemporary Examples
British Dictionary definitions for emoticon


any of several combinations of symbols used in electronic mail and text messaging to indicate the state of mind of the writer, such as :-) to express happiness
Word Origin
C20: from emot(ion) + icon
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for emoticon

by 1994, apparently from emotion + icon.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for emoticon

English 2


A spin imparted to a billiard ball, tennis ball, etc, to make it curve

[1860s+; fr French angle, ''angled'' similar to Anglais,''English'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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emoticon in Technology
/ee-moh'ti-kon/ An ASCII glyph used to indicate an emotional state in electronic mail or news. Although originally intended mostly as jokes, emoticons (or some other explicit humour indication) are virtually required under certain circumstances in high-volume text-only communication forums such as Usenet; the lack of verbal and visual cues can otherwise cause what were intended to be humorous, sarcastic, ironic, or otherwise non-100%-serious comments to be badly misinterpreted (not always even by newbies), resulting in arguments and flame wars.
Hundreds of emoticons have been proposed, but only a few are in common use. These include:
:-) "smiley face" (for humour, laughter, friendliness, occasionally sarcasm)
:-( "frowney face" (for sadness, anger, or upset)
;-) "half-smiley" (ha ha only serious); also known as "semi-smiley" or "winkey face".
:-/ "wry face"
These may become more comprehensible if you tilt your head sideways, to the left. The first two are by far the most frequently encountered. Hyphenless forms of them are common on CompuServe, GEnie, and BIX; see also bixie. On Usenet, "smiley" is often used as a generic term synonymous with emoticon, as well as specifically for the happy-face emoticon.
The emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on the CMU bboard systems on 1982-09-19. He later wrote: "I wish I had saved the original post, or at least recorded the date for posterity, but I had no idea that I was starting something that would soon pollute all the world's communication channels." GLS confirms that he remembers this original posting, which has subsequently been retrieved from a backup (
As with exclamation marks, overuse of the smiley is a mark of loserhood! More than one per paragraph is a fairly sure sign that you've gone over the line.
[Jargon File]
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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