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WhatsApp Emoji: How To Use Them and What They Mean

If you’ve ever misused or misunderstood a WhatsApp emoji meaning, it’s time to start studying. We’ve got everything you need to know.

Colleen Christison January 24, 2024
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Have you ever misunderstood a WhatsApp emoji meaning?

Much like going in for a hug when a handshake was intended, emoji faux pas can be embarrassing. Maybe your friend came to you with news of a recent breakup, and you reacted with the tears-of-joy 😂 emoji when you really meant to use the sobbing 😭 emoji. Awkward.

And when it comes to miscalculating WhatsApp emoji meanings, the stakes only get higher for business owners or social marketers. If, for example, you use the eggplant 🍆 emoji in the wrong place, you could offend your audience or even lose out on business.

To be absolutely sure you’re not miscommunicating, you need to be on the up-and-up with emoji meanings on WhatsApp. Find everything you need to know about emojis and WhatsApp below.

Bonus: Here’s everything you need to know about Instagram emojis and secret TikTok emojis.

Bonus: Download a free guide to discover which hashtags to use to boost traffic and target customers on social media. And then learn how you can use Hootsuite to measure results.

WhatsApp emoji translator

Quick tip: Puzzled by WhatsApp emoji meanings but in a hurry? Use Hootsuite’s free emoji translator. It breaks down each emoji’s meaning and how people typically react to it. It’s an emoji cheat sheet you’ll want to keep in your back pocket!

What are WhatsApp emoji and where can you use them?

Emojis are small pictorial symbols that convey emotions, expressions, and reactions in text messages, social media messages, and more.

WhatsApp emojis, in particular, are specific to the app. While they serve the same purpose, they look slightly different than those you see on other apps, like Instagram and TikTok.

But why do WhatsApp emoji matter to business owners and marketers? If you have a more casual tone of voice, want to be relatable, or are trying to reach a younger demographic, you’ll want to incorporate emojis into your WhatsApp marketing plan.

To use WhatsApp emojis, head into a conversation and tap the smiley face icon. You’ll see the whole selection of WhatsApp emojis here; tap one to select it. To switch back to your keyboard, tap the keyboard icon.

You can use WhatsApp emojis in your day-to-day business comms. Do you have a WhatsApp business account? If not, find out why you should get one and how to sign up.

WhatsApp emojis can add depth and nuance to your business communication, helping you convey emotions, reactions, and sentiments more effectively. They are especially valuable when you want to maintain a friendly and approachable tone while engaging with colleagues, clients, or customers on the platform.

You can use them when providing customer support, troubleshooting, or in your team-to-team communication on the app. You can do so in one of two ways:

  1. As an addition to your text, or
  2. As a reaction to a message

WhatsApp emoji reactions add an emoji to a message, using it to communicate a sentiment.

How do you use WhatsApp emoji reactions?

When someone sends you a message, you can respond with an emoji directly on their message. Here’s the step-by-step:

Step 1. Press and hold the text box you want to respond to.

A few popular emoji reactions will pop up.

popular emoji reactions in WhatsApp message

Step 2. Choose one of the suggested emojis.

Or you can click the plus icon for the library of WhatsApp emojis.

recent emoji examples with smiley faces and people

Step 3. Click the emoji you want to use.

Of course, each emoji has its own meaning. We’ll dive into the meaning of WhatsApp emojis below.

Step 4. If you’re happy with your selection, you’re done!

If you want to change your emoji, press and hold it to bring up a new box.

Step 5. Click “Tap to remove” to delete your selection.

message reaction screen and option to remove emoji

This screen will also show you who has reacted to the message with which emoji.

Step 6. Repeat steps 1-3 above to choose a new emoji.

Some things to note: You can only react with one emoji per message, but you can change that emoji as many times as you like. Reactions to deleted or disappearing messages will be removed along with the message.

Bonus: Take a look at the Discord and Snapchat-specific emoji meanings.

Popular WhatsApp emoji and what they mean

Curious what the 🥰 means in WhatsApp? Or what the combination 🥺 👉 👈 means? We’re here to help. Here are some of the most popular emojis on WhatsApp and the context they come with.

Psst: Find a full list of emoji meanings here.

List of individual WhatsApp symbols and their meanings

EmojiWhatsApp emoji meaning
✨ SparklesThe sparkle emoji, occasionally called the stars emoji, is used as a form of ✨emphasis✨. It's equally used to denote positive emphases, like love, excitement, or newness, as it is to denote a sarcastic or mocking tone.

For example, one could say, "My boss gave me more work for the same amount of money ✨blessed✨"
🥰 Smiling face with heartsThe smiling face with hearts emoji expresses a burst of affection. Use this emoji when you want to show gratitude and love.
🥺 PleadingThe pleading emoji essentially denotes the puppy-dog eyes of light-hearted begging or wanting something very badly.
If you aren’t wearing your glasses, the holding-back-tears emoji looks a lot like the pleading emoji. These emojis can be used to express similar sentiments.

But holding-back-tears emoji can express a range of emotions, including a pained smile or someone putting on a brave face while they’re upset. It can also express the feeling of experiencing something overwhelmingly cute or joyful.
❤️ Red heartThe red heart emoji is the universal signal for love, thanks, and gratitude. Despite its amorous appearance, this emoji can be either platonic or romantic. Corporations often use it in more informal settings, like social media captions.
🔥 FireThe fire or flame emoji is used to denote when something is “on fire” or lit. Colloquially, this expresses agreement, celebration or excitement.
🤌 Finger purseThe finger purse or pinched fingers emoji is used to express the Italian hand gesture of the same kind and was (in part) created by Adriano Farano, an Italian media entrepreneur. In Italy, it expresses disagreement, frustration, or disbelief and often means “What do you want?” or “What are you saying?”

But here’s where it gets interesting. Emojis can be used anywhere in the world, and so the 🤌 meaning changes depending on which localized setting you’re using it in. This little guy means something different in Israel, India, Nigeria, and beyond.
☺️The WhatsApp smiley meaning is simply to express positive acknowledgment. This emoji’s meaning is fairly broad, you can’t go wrong using it in most settings, so long as they’re positive or neutral.

List of WhatsApp emojis in combinations and their meanings

Emoji combinationWhatsApp emoji meaning
🥺 👉 👈Shy. This emoji combination should be used when you’re feeling a little bashful. It can be sent with an emotionally risky text.
🏃‍♀️💨Gotta go or on my way! This emoji combination basically means you’re going somewhere fast.
🤔🤚This combination means “hold up” or “wait a minute.” You can use it when you’ve been sent a confusing, shocking or strange message.
😎🤏😳🕶🤏What did I just see? Use this combination when you’ve been sent something shocking, disturbing, or surprising.
☝️🤓On it! When you’re asked to do something, especially something that requires mental work, use this combination to say you’ve got it.
👁👄👁It is what it is. This emoji combination is used to show a blank stare or the common thought-terminating cliché, it is what it is.
🍆 💦 👄 or 🍑 👅💦These emoji combos are NSFW. So, if you’re running a business, it’s best to avoid these.

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By Colleen Christison

Colleen Christison is a freelance copywriter, copy editor, and brand communications specialist. She spent the first six years of her career in award-winning agencies like Major Tom, writing for social media and websites and developing branding campaigns. Following her agency career, Colleen built her own writing practice, working with brands like Mission Hill Winery, The Prevail Project, and AntiSocial Media.

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