Where does come from?
There are two magnifying glass emoji depicting the kind of handheld magnifying glass associated with Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Gadget, or little boys burning ants. One points left, 🔍, and the other, right, 🔎.
Both were approved in 2010 under Unicode 6.0 and have caused frustration ever since:
Dear emoji Gods, why are there two magnifying glass emojis and not one for a derp face? These are the questions that trouble me.
— The Buried Life (@theburiedlife) April 4, 2015
You raise some important questions, @theburiedlife. But, the two magnifying glass emoji aren’t just for style.
Because the emoji is often used as a search icon or to signpost content, its orientation can be meaningful. Some place it before 🔎 the object of interest, such as a link or image. Others place it 🔍 after a comment, like a punctuation mark. The left-tilting version, though, may precede content in languages written right to left, like Arabic.
Yet others make absolutely no distinction between the two, using whichever they get to first on their keyboard. Together, the two emoji can bookend content for emphasis: 🔎Look! 🔍.
Across platforms, the magnifying glass emoji are mostly uniform, showing a clear or light blue-lensed magnifying glass with a gray handle, wood-colored on Google and red on Microsoft.
Who uses ?
The left- or right-pointing magnifying glass is used for a wide-ranging sense of “inspection.” This can include an up-close-and-personal look at a topic or zoomed-in view of an object.
— KingsNorton Farm Mkt (@Kingsnortonfarm) December 29, 2016
— Google Arts&Culture (@googlearts) December 29, 2016
The magnifying glass emoji can also convey exploration and scientific inquiry.
— Milkweed Editions (@Milkweed_Books) December 29, 2016
Science has inspired our small world this week. I predict some very excited faces in the morning ✨✨✨🔍🔍 #EYFS #earlyyears #EY #EYtalking #smallworld #storytelling #STEM #curriculumweek pic.twitter.com/K7Mn0neCWx
— Miss Smythe ✨💫 (@misssmythe_HT) May 20, 2018
The magnifying glass emoji can stand for “searching,” such as job hunting or finding more information about an item online.
— The IOG (@the_iog) December 29, 2017
The magnifying glass gets used for real detective work, investigations, or espionage … too.
— MetTaskforce (@MetTaskforce) December 29, 2016
CNN’s “Declassified” reveals untold stories of American espionage Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT 🔍🕵🏻🔎
— Elizabeth Santeramo (@lizunga) August 20, 2017
…and their many fictional forms, especially Sherlock Holmes and mystery novels.
End of January? No. I will post about Sherlock until my end 🔎 pic.twitter.com/BtJBbRuZjV
— Miss Sherlocked (@BagginsWatson) December 29, 2016
Finally, the magnifying glass emoji sometimes gets used for metaphorical looks.
— Gabe Cossey (@CosseyGabe) May 21, 2018