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😁 grinning face with smiling eyes emoji

What does 😁 mean?

The grinning face with smiling eyes emoji expresses joy, happiness, cheerfulness, or excitement. It might also be used to show an ironic attempt at positivity when things are grim. On some devices, especially Apple products, this emoji used to be perceived as a grimace or as something negative due to the design. Because of this, many users have come to think of this emoji as representing awkwardness, discomfort, or displeasure despite its positive name.

A few things to note…

The grinning face with smiling eyes emoji is generally very positive in meaning. Today this emoji is more graphically consistent across platforms than it was in the past, and so its meaning is no longer ambiguous or confused between devices where it was sometimes seen as a grimace.

Since it’s been standardized, on all devices it now has a big grin that radiates genuine joy and happiness. This is the kind of emoji that’s used when a person wants to wish someone a nice day or they want to revel in some positive event happening in their life. This emoji is very often interpreted at face value and as something celebratory or happy.

While it often appears in jovial settings, it may also appear when things aren’t so great. If things are going poorly in a person’s life, they might plop a grinning face with smiling eyes emoji at the end of their sentence as an ironic contrast to their previous statement. If things aren’t going well, this emoji can act as a great symbolic juxtaposition.

One big contributor to this emoji’s previous miscommunication issues was the way it looked on iOS. In September 2016 Apple released an update to iOS that changed the emoji’s look, making it much more clear that it depicted a happy face. Before then, on iOS this emoji looked very similar to the already existing grimacing face emoji. Other platforms like Facebook and Twitter had this same design issue.

This cross-platform graphical difference resulted in ambiguity and some unintended meanings. A person might think they were sending out a happy face, but the recipient might receive a grimace instead. Grimaces are quite far from the actual feelings that someone who meant to send a grin might want to communicate. In fact, in a study done by Hannah Miller, a researcher at the GroupLens research lab at the University of Minnesota, a person receiving the grinning face with smiling eyes emoji on an Apple device generally perceived it as having a negative sentiment overall.

For example…

“Making people smile is by far the best feeling😁 - grinning face with smiling eyes emoji

@ashlyn_inglis6 Twitter (April 18, 2017)

“Everything is aching n I can't stop crying and to top it all off I've done fuck all revision 😁 - grinning face with smiling eyes emoji

@kaz_bridson Twitter (April 20, 2017)

“Torn between watching The Walking Dead or the Oscars. I'll be switching a lot with the remote tonight! 😁 - grinning face with smiling eyes emoji

Kelly Hayward @HotMamaKelly Twitter (February 26, 2017)

This is not a formal definition of 😁 like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of 😁 that will help you expand your word mastery.