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15 Popular Emojis and the Chinese Characters behind them (Par
How frequently do you find yourself tapping on emojis while texting or navigating through your social media? It’s fair to say that emojis have revolutionized our digital conversations.
Contrary to popular belief, the term “emoji” is not derived from the English word “emotion.” Instead, it originates from the Japanese kanji 絵文字. The first symbol, 絵, translates to “picture” and is pronounced “eh.” The latter, 文字, means “character,” and its pronunciation is “mōji.” When combined, these two phonetics (eh + mōji) create the term we are all familiar with today – “emoji.”
Now that you know a bit more about the word “emoji,” let’s dive into five important Chinese characters that are used in 15 popular emojis.
To smile 笑
Let’s kick off with an emotion that leaves us feeling elated – the act of smiling, or 笑 (xiào) in Chinese. This character comprises two parts: the bamboo radical ⺮ positioned at the top and 夭 resting below it. It can mean “to smile,” “to laugh,” or “to giggle.”
In its ancient form, the character painted a scene of a bamboo forest on the top of a person wearing a joyful smile. Take a closer look at this compound character – doesn’t it seem as though the character is smiling back at you? Here are some emojis that use 笑 to show different kinds of smiles:
slightly smiling face 微笑
微 means “tiny,” and 笑 means “to smile.” So 微笑 (wēi xiào) means “smile.” For example, you can say 给我一个微笑 (gěi wǒ yī ge wēi xiào), which means “give me a smile.”
smiling face with halo 天使微笑
天使微笑 (tiān shǐ wēi xià) has four characters, but you already know the last two – 微笑 (wēi xiào; smile). So, we only need to learn the first two characters, 天使. 天使 (tiān shǐ) means “angel.” If you want to say someone has an angelic smile, you can say: 她有一个天使的微笑 (tā yǒu yī ge tiānshǐ de wēixiào).
smiling face with smiling eyes 笑脸
笑 is “to smile,” and 脸 translates to “face.” So, 笑脸 (xiào liǎn) means “smiling face.”
smiling face with hearts 爱心笑脸
Remember 笑脸 (smiling face)? So now there are just two new characters to learn, 爱心 (ài xīn). 爱 means “to love,” and 心 means “heart.” So, 爱心 means “compassion.”
To cry 哭
Nowadays, it’s become more common for people to express a wide range of emotions, including those that might be seen as less positive. This shift can be seen in our growing use of emojis like the crying face in our messages.
The Chinese character for “to cry” is 哭 (kū), created from two “mouth” symbols (口) and a “dog” (犬). Picture a dog crying for food – it’s hard not to feel a little heartache! Here are a few emojis that feature 哭 to communicate various degrees of sadness:
crying face 哭泣
Crying can be triggered by a range of emotions, from happiness to sadness and so much more. Similarly, the Chinese character 哭 is a generic term for crying. But when we pair it with 泣 (qì; to sob), forming 哭泣 (kū qì), we get a term that specifically means crying in a sad context, removing any ambiguity. However, it’s worth noting that 哭泣 (kū qì) is less colloquial than the single-character word 哭 (kū).
loudly crying face 大声哭泣
To express the idea of crying out loud, you can add the term 大声 (dà shēng) before 哭泣 (kū qì). In 大声 (dà shēng), 大 (dà) stands for “big” or “loud,” while 声 (shēng) translates to “sound” or “voice.” In Chinese, the descriptor of a verb’s intensity (such as loudly or quietly) must come before the verb. Hence, the phrase correctly translates to 大声哭泣, which literally means “loud sound crying,” rather than the reversed 哭泣大声.