Emoji With Hidden, Alternative, or Double Meanings

Tuesday, February 7 2 min read

The rules of digital communication are constantly changing, and as soon as you learn an abbreviation for one thing, it might mean something new. And while emoji are pictures, not words, the rules are changing in the same way. The house emoji (🏡) can represent a building, but it has gained additional usage in the last few years. Work colleagues might add it to their calendars to let teammates know that they’ll be working from home on a particular day, for example. These little icons might look like one thing, but they can be used for multiple definitions. Here’s a list of emoji with unspoken and alternative meanings you might not know about. If you choose to sprinkle your texts and social media posts with emoji, exercise caution, lest you be misunderstood.

🙃 Upside-Down Face Emoji

The upside-down smiley-face emoji articulates dark humor and sarcasm. It’s not to be used when you’re being genuine or heartfelt. You’d be smart to avoid it in professional communication, too, unless your office has more of an edgy vibe.

😂 Face With Tears of Joy Emoji

For younger texters, the face-with-tears-of-joy emoji (also known as the crying-laughing emoji) doesn’t mean they’re actually laughing — it’s typically used by Gen Zers when something is decidedly un funny. If you’re actually ROFLMAO (rolling on the floor laughing my a** off), you might consider using the skull emoji (💀), which implies something is “so funny I could die.”

🐐 Goat Emoji

The goat emoji is always a compliment. “GOAT” is an acronym meaning “Greatest of All Time,” so if you receive a goat emoji, you’re doing something right.

🐝 Bee Emoji

Along with the lemon emoji (🍋), for the 2016 album Lemonade , the bee emoji ( 🐝) has been appropriated by Beyoncé’s fan base, also known as the BeyHive (pronounced “bee hive”). They’ve been known to swarm social media with bee emoji whenever someone comes for their queen, such as when Emma Watson publicly criticized Bey for appearing to cater to the male gaze.

🥑 Avocado Emoji

Here’s a cute one that’s popular on Snapchat — the avocado emoji (🥑) is frequently used to denote someone as your “better half.”

💅 Nail Polish Emoji

While you could use this to actually communicate the experience of getting your nails done, the nail polish emoji (💅) often carries a more sassy connotation. It’s used to articulate being unbothered, indifferent, or somehow above a certain situation or conversation. There’s also another rising niche usage, of people dropping the emoji to self-identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.


This emoji usage has Japanese origins, particularly in anime and manga. It’s meant to resemble the veins that appear on a manga character’s face when they’re angry — you can use it to let your friends know when you’re stuck on the bus and getting frustrated that you’re running late.

Featured image credit: Inside Creative House / iStock

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