One of the great virtues of emojis are their ability to mark tone where plain text cannot. A simple โค๏ธ Red Heart can add affection to a text message. A string of ๐Ÿ˜‚ ๐Ÿ˜‚ ๐Ÿ˜‚ Face With Tears of Joy can show we find something funny in a social media post. Yet in the small space of an emoji, itโ€™s not always so easy to encapsulate the full complexity of our emotions. Consider ๐Ÿ˜.

On the Apple keyboard, ๐Ÿ˜ shares its raised brows and comma-shaped side-eyes with ๐Ÿ˜’ Unamused Face, but boasts a half-smile cocked up to the left instead. ๐Ÿ˜ is definitely amused in some way, but how, exactly? Itโ€™s time again for some emojiology.

Above: On Apple's keyboard, the Smirking Face emoji (left) and the Unamused Face emoji (center) share the same eyes but very different smiles. The Smirking Face emoji also has a cat smiley variant (right), Cat Face With Wry Smile.

๐Ÿ”ค Meaning

As its official name reveals, ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face represents the facial expression of a smirk. Itโ€™s used to communicate a range of feelings, including smugness, self-confidence, self-indulgence, mischief, cheeky humor, and general satisfaction. ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face especially implies, however, flirtation and sexual innuendo.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Development

๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face popularly debuted in 2010 with its approval under Unicode 6.0. Apple did include the emoji, though, in its initial implementation of emoji support as part of iPhone OS 2.2 in 2008, though on a limited basis in Japan.

Above: How the Smirking Face emoji displays across platforms. Note that only Mozilla's smiley looks straight ahead.

Wedged between ๐Ÿ™„ Face With Rolling Eyes and ๐Ÿ˜ฃ Persevering Face, ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face bears some notable similaritiesโ€”and contrastsโ€”on different keyboards.

Across the major platforms, the character sports a knowing smile upturned to the faceโ€™s left, though its length and sharpness widely vary. The smiles on Google and Microsoftโ€™s ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face, for instance, have softer curves, portraying a shyer, kinder-seeming smiley. LG and Facebook leave out eyebrows, while Mozilla alone depicts eyes looking straight ahead; the rest of the smileys squint impishly to their left.

๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face christened Twitter in May 2011, and skyrocketed on social media later that summer with Appleโ€™s release of OS X Lion, which supported emoji for its desktop computers.

In 2015, Snapchat thrust ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face into further prominence when it launched Friend Emojis, a feature designed to help users manage their contacts on the messaging app by using emoji to symbolize friendship statuses. Among them was the ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face, which means: โ€œYou are one of their best friendsโ€ฆbut they are not a best friend of yours. You donโ€™t send them many snaps, but they send you a lot.โ€ With its ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face, Snapchat implies the messaging imbalance is a dirty little secret the favored friend can take some pleasure in.

Some Snapchatters greeted the change with a ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face:

Others gave it the ole ๐Ÿ˜’ Unamused Face:

Snapchat may have made @emilypugh_ feel โ€œuncomfortableโ€ because of ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face's increasing use to signal flirtation or punctuate suggestive remarks in internet dating culture in the late 2010s.

In 2017, Clover analyzed emoji behavior on its dating app, and the ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face ranked among the top emojis that users were likely to reply to on the platformโ€”#4 for women and #1 for men.

The ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face was also a top emoji men liked to send, according to Clover. That overeager use may have helped sully the smileyโ€™s associations with sleazy come-ons or cheesy pickup lines in dating apps and private/direct messages. One tweeter summed up such unwelcome emoji advances:

โœ… Examples

๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face exhibits meanings as many and as subtle as the complex facial expression that inspired itโ€”hence it also answers to the names Flirting, Sexual Face, Smug Face, or Suggestive Smile emoji.

Letโ€™s highlight some of the diverse shades of ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face.

This self-satisfied ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face is too cool for school:

While this ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face basks in some due pride and accomplishment:

๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face can bob the head, as if to say โ€œnot too shabbyโ€:

Or a sly โ€œI know a secretโ€:

YouTube star Jack Merridew is being a little naughty, if not kinky, with his ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face:

While @YeaaahKevin, here, drops a coquettish, but cute, ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face:

Landon Mossโ€™s ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face marks a joke that is clever but true:

Officer Edithโ€™s ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face is all about some good-natured silliness:

Others treat themselves to some indulgent self-care with ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face:

With a snap of the finger gun and a chick-chick out of the corner of the mouth, ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face can also trigger the delight of โ€œThis is what Iโ€™m talking aboutโ€ ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face:

And many, many, many fans of K-pop sprinkle their affection for their favorite stars with ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face:

๐Ÿ—’๏ธ Usage Notes

As weโ€™ve seen, ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face is widely used to communicate an array of sentiments. The emoji can be just what we need to mic-drop a wisecrack or spice up some banter, but its ambiguity can cause some awkwardness.

Be particularly mindful of its negative and suggestive connotations when using ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face, especially as its appearance varies across platforms. One person might see ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face as an innocent smile or friendly wink while another might interpret it as conceited, untoward, or even lewd.

And remember, for all the similarities in their eyes, ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face is not the same as ๐Ÿ˜’ Unamused Face.

To avoid any โ€œuncomfortableโ€ miscommunications, consider pairing ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face with, well, ๐Ÿ˜‚ Face With Tears of Joy if intending humor or โค๏ธ Red Heart, if romance. Perhaps ๐Ÿ˜Ž Smiling Face With Sunglasses, which often accompanies ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face, can help more clearly maintain the sense of cleverness or contentment.

Or try ๐Ÿ˜ Smirking Face's less loaded feline counterpart, ๐Ÿ˜ผ Cat Face With Wry Smile. We all know cats are unmistakably smug ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜.