The New Emoji Coming in 2016

Avocado, shrug, and a pregnant-woman icon are all possible for next year.

A doner kebab emoji might even be on its way. (Alex Kehr / Flickr)

Earlier this year, a British linguist called emoji the isle’s “fastest-growing language.” Later reports went even further, calling the pictographic language “the world’s fastest-growing language.”

I regarded these as technophilic hyperbole until, I realized, they were definitely true. Emoji, which existed five years ago only in primitive, emoticon form, now ornament the language of my everyday life. I use them with my parents and my managers and my friends. When my middle-school-age brother sent me a text with a emoji in it last month, I was so excited that I showed it to everyone else at the table.

It’s hard to call this emergent system of pictographic meaning anything other than a language.

2016 emoji?

But emoji, as a language, evolve in an unusually technocratic way. Though of course the meanings remain subject to the changes and innovations of millions of worldwide speakers, new symbols themselves must be adopted and ratified by the Unicode Consortium. The Consortium is the set of tech companies and user groups that oversee Unicode, the vast computer-text standard that converts computer code to readable text. If you can read these words, you can thank Unicode. Emoji themselves are overseen by a smaller working group within the organization, led by developers at Apple and Google.

So every year around this time, we gather for new tidings from the emoji lords, as they prepare to announce candidate emoji. Last year at this festive season, we learned that a taco emoji might be on its way, as were a mosque and a menorah. These candidate emoji have all since become real. What’s in store for 2016?

The Unicode Consortium is considering 63 candidates for emoji-dom. They’re below. The Consortium also gives reference glyphs, which I’ve occasionally attached.

  1. Face with Cowboy Hat
  2. Clown Face
  3. Nauseated Face
  4. Rolling on the Floor Laughing
  5. Drooling Face
  6. Lying Face
  7. Sneezing Face
  8. Prince (the royalty, not the artist)
  9. Man in Tuxedo
  10. Mother Christmas
  11. Face Palm
  12. Shrug (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
  13. Pregnant Woman
  14. Selfie
  15. Man Dancing (the reference glyph looks like John Travolta)
  16. “Call Me!” Hand
  17. Raised Back of Hand
  18. Left-Facing Fist
  19. Right-Facing Fist
  20. Handshake
  21. Hands with First and Second Fingers Crossed
  22. Black Heart (so goth, omg)
  23. Eagle
  24. Duck
  25. Bat
  26. Shark
  27. Owl
  28. Fox Face
  29. Butterfly
  30. Gorilla
  31. Lizard
  32. Rhinoceros
  33. Wilted Flower (also pretty goth actually)
  34. Croissant
  35. Avocado
  36. Cucumber
  37. Bacon
  38. Potato
  39. Carrot
  40. Baguette Bread
  41. Green Salad
  42. Shallow Pan of Food (The Consortium notes this could be a paella or a casserole.)
  43. Stuffed Flatbread (The Consortium augments this with a list of suggested non-taco flatbreads: “döner kebab, falafel, gyro, shawarma.”)
  44. Clinking Glasses (This is kind of Microsoft Clip Art-y.)
  45. Tumbler Glass (“typically shown with iced drink”)
  46. Spoon (the utensil, not the artist)
  47. Octagonal Sign
  48. Shopping Trolley
  49. Scooter
  50. Motor Scooter
  51. Canoe
  52. Person Doing Cartwheel
  53. Juggling
  54. Wrestlers
  55. Boxing Glove
  56. Martial Arts Uniform
  57. Water Polo
  58. Handball
  59. Goal Net
  60. Rifle (It looks like a sportsman rifle—there’s also already a pistol.)
  61. Modern Pentathlon (the suggested glyph is a total mess)
  62. Fencer
  63. First Place Medal
  64. Second Place Medal
  65. Third Place Medal (how Millennial)
  66. Drum with Drumsticks

Most exciting to me on this list: the avocado. No question.

Once an emoji is set, by the way, it’s locked in basically forever: The Unicode Consortium is loath to change symbols lest it run into backward-compatibility problems. So national flags in emoji form are actually coded in a special way so they can change over time. The Unicode standard itself is designed to outlast any individual nation-state.