How Gen Z Uses Emoji: A Guide For Millennials

Do you speak emoji? As a millennial you may think you do considering you came of age during the dawn of emojis However what might surprise you is that the meanings of many popular emojis have completely changed with the influence of Gen Z Gen Z’s creativity and unique sense of style have reshaped the way emojis are used and understood In this guide we will explore the new ways Gen Z utilizes emojis and help you translate their updated meanings.

Skull Emoji ๐Ÿ’€

If you thought skulls were reserved for Halloween think again Gen Z uses the skull emoji ๐Ÿ’€ as a symbol for laughter Initially added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015 millennials used it in a lighthearted way to indicate playful exhaustion For Gen Z a line of skull emojis ๐Ÿ’€ represents “I’m dying with laughter or “I’m dead from laughing. To emphasize how hilarious something is you can even include a headstone emoji ๐Ÿชฆ for good measure.

Example “Did you watch last night’s Abbott Elementary? ๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ’€”

Loudly Crying Face Emoji ๐Ÿ˜ญ

When Gen Z uses the loudly crying face emoji ๐Ÿ˜ญ, tears may not actually be involved While millennials used this emoji to indicate strong emotions that could make you cry Gen Z primarily uses it to express positive feelings They use it when something is so funny cute or sweet that it becomes overwhelming in a delightful way.

Example “Look at my puppy wearing his new Halloween costume ๐Ÿ˜ญ”

Folded Hands Emoji ๐Ÿ™

The folded hands emoji ๐Ÿ™ has long confused people with its ambiguous meaning While it was commonly used as a high-five symbol by millennials Gen Z primarily uses it as a way of saying “thank you or expressing hope for something.

Example “Tell me you have an extra ticket to the Brandi Carlile show ๐Ÿ™”

Zany Face Emoji ๐Ÿคช

The zany face emoji ๐Ÿคช is the perfect representation of goofiness or silliness While millennials may have been more inclined to use the face with tears of joy emoji ๐Ÿ˜‚ or the upside-down face emoji ๐Ÿ™ƒ to express their own silliness Gen Z has embraced the zany face emoji as a way to indicate their goofiness dorkiness or being in a weird mood Be prepared for the conversation to take some silly turns when this emoji is used.

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Example “It’s 5 pm and I just drank an entire venti pumpkin spiced latte ๐Ÿคช”

Eyes Emoji ๐Ÿ‘€

If someone sends you the eyes emoji ๐Ÿ‘€ in 2022 they are saying “I’m listening or “tell me more. While this emoji originally symbolized side-eye or the recognition of something creepy it now commonly indicates interest and attentiveness.

Example “Taylor Swift just announced a new album ๐Ÿ‘€”

Upside-Down Face Emoji ๐Ÿ™ƒ

The upside-down face emoji ๐Ÿ™ƒ is not simply a smiley face turned topsy-turvy It now represents something terrible or “FML (an abbreviation for “F*ck My Life”) Gen Z uses this emoji to express when things aren’t going well or they are having a terrible day.

Example “So my flight just got canceled ๐Ÿ™ƒ”

Face with Medical Mask Emoji ๐Ÿ˜ท

The face with medical mask emoji ๐Ÿ˜ท has gained prominence in recent times due to global health concerns Gen Z employs this emoji to represent various aspects related to health safety or precautions It can be used to indicate illness the need for protection or as a reminder to follow safety guidelines.

Example “I’m feeling under the weather today ๐Ÿ˜ท Take care and stay safe!”

Shocked Emoji Combination ๐Ÿ‘๏ธ๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘๏ธ

Prepare to be shocked by the meaning behind this emoji combination The wide-eyed and open-mouthed look of the ๐Ÿ‘๏ธ๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘๏ธ combination represents shock or surprise It is reminiscent of the typical response one might have when receiving shocking news.

Example “Did you see the election results? ๐Ÿ‘๏ธ๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘๏ธ”

Heart Emoji โค๏ธ

Hearts are universally known as symbols of love but they play a new role in Gen Z’s emoji language On platforms like TikTok younger generations use “fairy comments, combining heartfelt expressions with “soft emojis that lessen the impact The classic heart emoji โค๏ธ can be paired with the word “no to create a message that means “sorry but no. Remember a heart doesn’t always signify “I love you in the world of Gen Z.

Example “Skinny jeans are still cool right? “No โค๏ธ”

Money-Mouth Face Emoji ๐Ÿค‘

The money-mouth face emoji ๐Ÿค‘ has gained popularity among Gen Z as a representation of wealth and affluence It is used to express excitement or satisfaction related to money success or luxurious experiences Gen Z often utilizes this emoji when sharing stories of financial gains expensive purchases or achieving monetary goals.

Example “Just received my paycheck and it’s a big one! Time to treat myself to a shopping spree! ๐Ÿค‘”

Nauseated Face Emoji ๐Ÿคข

The nauseated face emoji ๐Ÿคข is a vivid depiction of feeling sick or disgusted Gen Z incorporates this emoji into their conversations when expressing revulsion towards certain situations actions or even distasteful comments It conveys a strong sense of repulsion or an adverse reaction to something unpleasant.

Example “I can’t believe she ate that weird combination of food ๐Ÿคข”

Grinning Face with Sweat Emoji ๐Ÿ˜…

The grinning face with sweat emoji ๐Ÿ˜…, also known as the “This is fine emoji has undergone a shift in meaning While millennials used it to represent sweaty situations or nerves when talking to a crush Gen Z employs it more sarcastically For them this emoji signifies “I’m stressed but I’m fine.”

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Example “Guess who has 8 meetings on their calendar today? ๐Ÿ˜…”

Party Popper Emoji ๐ŸŽ‰

The party popper emoji ๐ŸŽ‰ is a festive symbol used by Gen Z to celebrate special occasions achievements or moments of joy It signifies excitement merriment and a sense of festivity Gen Z often includes this emoji in messages or social media posts to convey their enthusiasm and make their celebrations more vibrant.

Example “Congratulations on your graduation! Time to party! ๐ŸŽ‰”

Face with Rolling Eyes Emoji ๐Ÿ™„

The face with rolling eyes emoji ๐Ÿ™„ is a way for Gen Z to express exasperation annoyance or disbelief It conveys a sense of sarcasm or mild frustration towards a particular situation comment or behavior Gen Z uses this emoji to show their disapproval or to express a dismissive attitude.

Example “He’s always late for our meetings ๐Ÿ™„”

Clown Face Emoji ๐Ÿคก

The clown face emoji ๐Ÿคก is no longer just a representation of a clown for Gen Z It has become a universal symbol for someone who is acting or saying something incredibly foolish On social media if someone quotes a hot take they disagree with they might respond with a string of clown face emojis ๐Ÿคก Gen Z also uses the clown face emoji ๐Ÿคก to describe their own acts of foolishness.

Example “I really just gave my toddler spaghetti while he was wearing a white shirt ๐Ÿคก”

Sparkles Emoji โœจ

The sparkles emoji โœจ is a favorite among Gen Z to emphasize positivity excitement or a touch of glamour It adds a sparkling and magical flair to their messages or social media posts signifying joy celebration or something extraordinary Gen Z often incorporates this emoji when sharing exciting news or expressing their enthusiasm for a special event.

Example “Just booked my dream vacation! So excited! โœจ”

Hugging Face Emoji ๐Ÿค—

The hugging face emoji ๐Ÿค— is an endearing symbol of warmth affection and support Gen Z uses this emoji to express virtual hugs comfort or convey feelings of care towards others It is often shared to provide emotional support express congratulations or show solidarity.

Example “You did amazing on your presentation! Virtual hugs for you! ๐Ÿค—”

Smiling Face with Halo Emoji ๐Ÿ˜‡

The smiling face with halo emoji ๐Ÿ˜‡ is a symbol of innocence purity and angelic behavior Gen Z often uses this emoji to express a sense of sincerity kindness or when someone is being exceptionally good-natured It can also be used ironically to playfully highlight moments of mischievousness or slight mischief.

Example “I helped my neighbor carry groceries today Such a good deed! ๐Ÿ˜‡”

Fire Emoji ๐Ÿ”ฅ

The fire emoji ๐Ÿ”ฅ signifies that something is lit super stylish or attractive It has always been popular for describing metaphorical “fires rather than actual ones Millennials used it to mean something was “on fire in the sense of being cool or awesome This meaning remains consistent across generations.

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Example “OMG your dress is ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ.”

Winking Face Emoji ๐Ÿ˜‰

The winking face emoji ๐Ÿ˜‰ adds a playful and flirtatious tone to digital conversations Gen Z uses this emoji to convey humor mischief or to subtly imply a hidden meaning or inside joke It is often employed to lighten the mood and create a sense of casual friendliness.

Example “Don’t worry your secret is safe with me ๐Ÿ˜‰”

Slightly Smiling Face Emoji ๐Ÿ™‚

The slightly smiling face emoji ๐Ÿ™‚, once the quintessential symbol of joy now holds a different meaning Gen Z often uses it ironically indicating a fake smile in awkward situations or when feeling uncomfortable.

Example “Well time to go take this test I didn’t study for ๐Ÿ™‚”

Raised Hands Emoji ๐Ÿ™Œ

The raised hands emoji ๐Ÿ™Œ is a powerful symbol of celebration enthusiasm and praise Gen Z includes this emoji to express excitement applause or to show support for someone’s achievements or good news It signifies joy admiration and a sense of triumph.

Example “Congratulations on your promotion! You deserve it! ๐Ÿ™Œ”

Hourglass Emoji โณ

For Gen Z the hourglass emoji โณ doesn’t indicate anything related to time Instead it is used to describe someone who is attractive reminiscent of the classic hourglass figure Similarly the pregnant woman emoji ๐Ÿคฐ has taken on a second meaning related to attractiveness If someone reacts with a pregnant woman emoji it implies that the subject matter is so appealing that it made the responder “pregnant.”

Thumbs Up Emoji ๐Ÿ‘

The thumbs up emoji ๐Ÿ‘ doesn’t always indicate a positive response in Gen Z’s usage While millennials used it to convey “good job or “I’ve got it, Gen Z prefers to use it ironically If you receive a thumbs up emoji ๐Ÿ‘ in the 2020s it’s likely a sarcastic or passive-aggressive way of saying “good job on something you botched or even a dismissive response to something you’ve said.

Example “Thanks for telling Ava about her surprise party ๐Ÿ‘”

Pensive Face Emoji ๐Ÿ˜”

The pensive face emoji ๐Ÿ˜” reflects a state of deep thought contemplation or sadness Gen Z uses this emoji when expressing feelings of reflection introspection or when something has left them feeling downcast or melancholic It conveys a sense of thoughtfulness or a reflective mood.

Example “After a long day I’m feeling a bit lost and pensive ๐Ÿ˜””

Kissing Face Emoji ๐Ÿ˜—

While you might think the kissing face emoji ๐Ÿ˜— represents a kiss Gen Z has a different interpretation For them it means “sounds good to me or even expresses an “ohhh reaction It’s a response you’d use when making plans encountering a good idea or seeing a photo of something you really like.

Example “Yes 6 pm is perfect ๐Ÿ˜—๐Ÿ˜—”

Shushing Face Emoji ๐Ÿคซ

The shushing face emoji ๐Ÿคซ is a playful way for Gen Z to convey secrecy confidentiality or the act of keeping a secret It signifies the notion of silence or hushing someone often used in a humorous or mischievous context.

Example “I have a surprise for them Let’s keep it a secret for now ๐Ÿคซ”


With an ever-expanding array of emojis available Gen Z continues to find creative ways to express themselves through digital communication Understanding and embracing these emoji trends allows millennials to engage and connect with Gen Z effectively

From the smiling face with halo and winking face emojis to the raised hands and pensive face emojis each symbol holds unique connotations and enhances the richness of online conversations.

By appreciating the diverse meanings behind emojis millennials can bridge the generational gap and foster meaningful interactions with Gen Z So let’s continue to explore and celebrate the evolving world of emojis embracing the expressive and dynamic language they offer for communicating a wide range of emotions and sentiments.

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