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The Real Meanings Behind the 11 Weirdest Emojis

Their real meanings will blow your mind.

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/

Talking eye?

This symbols means telling what you see—specifically, from the “I Am a Witness” campaign from the Ad Council. Apple teamed up with the anti-bullying campaign, which encouraged kids to speak up when they saw bullying, to create the emoji with an eye in a speech bubble. Think your kid is getting picked on, but don’t have eye-witness proof? Watch out for these warning signs your kid is being bullied.

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Firey warning?

Without the white block, we’d figure this was a tulip. If it weren’t for the spiky top, it could pass for a Do Not Enter sign. Put them together, and (according to emoji designers) you get a nametag. We’ve never seen one like it at our work conferences, but it would be a nice break from those “Hello my name is” stickers. Find out why memorizing those name tags can make you more charming.

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Three hospitals?


At first glance, you’d probably assume both of these are hospitals—one is just a bit more comfortable than the others. In truth, though, only the first one is a hospital; the other two are both hotels. Specifically, the second is a “love hotel.” Yes, as in a pay-by-the-hour room. We recommend booking one with your partner at 3 p.m.—science says that’s the best time to have sex.

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/


You can find this emoji in the “food and drink” section, which gives you a hint—but also makes it way more confusing. It looks like a cute flower with a swirl but must be edible. Actually, it’s a fish cake called kamaboko. In Japan, chefs shape mashed fish into a log, then steam it before slicing it. Some look like this cute little emoji, but others are more plain.

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/


Just what is this weird green and yellow shape? A book? A downward arrow? Americans might not be familiar, it’s a popular symbol in Japan. The symbols is called a “Shoshinsha” mark and means “beginner.” For instance, new drivers are required to put one on their cars, and it’s also a general sign of a newbie.

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/

Fancy M?

This looks like it could be a fancy M, or maybe the rise and fall of a line graph. Nope. This symbol is actually called a part alternation mark. In Japan, it tells singers that it’s time for the next vocalist to start—which is particularly helpful in karaoke. (Find out if you really know the lyrics of your go-to karaoke song as well as you thought.)

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/

Golf balls in a cornfield?

Among the obvious desert, city, and mountain scenes, this emoji stands out as pretty random. But this “rice stack” picture isn’t so much about the place as the occasion: a Harvest Moon Festival. During moon-viewing ceremonies, Japanese people will stack little rice cake balls into pyramids and decorate altars with tall grasses.

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/

Random initials?

The blue boxes with “OK” and “COOL” are easy enough to guess, but this one left our heads scratching. The “NG” is supposed to stand for “no good.”

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/

White flower?

This one—and other emojis with kanji—would admittedly not be weird if we actually knew Japanese. But we were extra curious about this fancy-looking one. The white flower and characters in it are meant to show “brilliant homework.” Don’t miss these teacher-approved tips for helping kids with homework.

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Crystal ball?

This magical-looking object is actually all about technology. It’s a trackball, which some people use instead of a mouse to move their computer’s cursor.

The-Real-Meanings-Behind-the-11-Weirdest-EmojisTatiana Ayazo/

Fancy box?

This isn’t just any old cube—it’s the Kaaba. Meaning “cube” in Arabic, the building is the holiest shrine in Islam and sits in the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.