Emoji and emoticon

Last week’s OED word of the day was emoji: an icon used to show an emotion in computer mediated communication. It’s apparently from Japanese emoji (pictograph) made up of e (meaning picture) and moji (meaning letter). I was surprised to read that its similarity to emoticon is a coincidence. Emoticon (a facial expression made up of keyboard characters to show emotion) is composed of emot- from emotion + icon.

Because of their similar meanings and initial spellings, I had assumed they shared the same formation. While the vast majority of the words beginning with ’emot-‘ are related to emotion, it seems emo-, without being followed by the letter t, actually isn’t linked to emotional meanings. The exception to this is the word emo, first recorded in 1988. 


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