emojis dictionary
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In the emojis dictionary each is given a definition, history and examples of use.

One of the world’s largest online dictionaries has added definitions for emoji, the first official dictionary to do so.

Dictionary.com launched its emojis dictionary page this week with 22 definitions for emojis, including the crying-laughing face, flame and goat.

For each emoji, a definition, history and examples of use are given.

screen shot from the emojis dictionary

For the eyes emoji, the website definition reads:

“The eyes emoji has many uses. It mostly serves to draw attention to something the user wants to highlight, especially in situations that involve drama and interpersonal tension.

“It can also be an emoji representation of shifty eyes or the action of side-eyeing. This emoji sometimes appears when someone finds a person attractive.”

screen grab of emojis dictionary

The new definitions are researched extensively by the emojis dictionary lexicographers, often giving multiple meanings for each emoji depending on what context it was used in.

Emoji were officially added to Apple’s iPhone keyboard in 2011, Android in 2013. Since then, they have become a crucial part of how people communicate online. 157 new Emojis were announced last month.

Hidden meaning of ‘secret language’ emojis

The people behind the emojis dictionary may like to know researchers have discovered people are using emojis as a secret language.

Emoji symbols are being used to construct secret “languages” that allow personalised communication between colleagues, friends and family members, say researchers.

In the new lexicon, pictures of pizza or wedges of cheese popping up on a smartphone might mean “I love you”.

A bathtub symbol delivered a somewhat different message, according to one example cited by the scientists. It translated as “coffin”.

An even more obscure meaning was attached to a “thinking face” emoji. Because of the position of the thumb and forefinger on the chin, it mirrored the American sign language symbol for “lesbian”.

Paradise Papers and emjis dictionary
Apple faced a backlash after changing its peach emoji (Yui Mok/PA)

Other examples included an octopus emoji for “cuddles” and a devil image for “I’m feeling sexy”.

Emojis used in combination took the place of whole sentences, the scientists found.

In once instance, a balloon followed by a comma and a teddy bear meant “I’m thinking of you but don’t have the words to say it”.

The team from Goldsmith’s University of London and the University of Birmingham conducted an online survey to investigate how people used emoji to convey secret meanings.

Of the 134 participants, 74 reported “repurposing” 69 different emoji for private communication.

new emojis

Dr Sarah Wiseman, a lecturer in computer science at Goldsmiths, said: “Our study shows that people use emoji in a similar way to nicknames or slang, as a handy shortcut to what they mean, which through consistent use creates an intimate ‘secret language’ others don’t understand.

“Creators of emoji need to bear in mind the subtle way that people repurpose them and the impact even small visual changes to them could have on these alternative meanings.”

Apple backlash

In 2016, Apple faced a furious customer backlash after changing the appearance of its peach emoji.

An investigation found that most Apple users were using the emoji to refer to buttocks, with only 7% employing it to describe a fruit.

The re-drawn emoji did not fit the alternative meaning as well as the original.

Dr Wiseman added: “While we know some fruit and vegetable emoji have been repurposed by many people to mean something else, we were intrigued to find out about personal instances of this – examples of emoji that have a special meaning for just two people.

“Often this was about more than just typing something more quickly: people found that by using emoji they could convey very complex meanings and thoughts with them that could not be described in words.”

Hardly earth shattering stuff is it?  Still, the findings are due to be presented at the Computer Human Interaction 2018 conference in Montreal, Canada, in April if you’re interested.

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