Reflecting the increased use of emoticons as a communication method, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen one particular emoji as its word of the year for the first time.
The emoji, officially called the “Face with Tears of Joy,” depicts a half-crying, half-smiling expression. It beat out candidates such as “refugee,” “sharing economy,” “Brexit” and “on fleek,” an informal phrase originating in the U.S. and meaning extremely good, attractive or stylish.
“This year, instead of choosing a traditional word, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen a pictograph . . . to reflect the sharp increase in popularity of emoji across the world in 2015,” Oxford University Press, which oversees Oxford Dictionaries, said in a statement Tuesday.
Oxford University Press and London-based Swiftkey, which develops keyboard apps for smartphones, jointly researched how people were using emoji. They found that the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji was the most popular, totaling 20 percent of all emoji use in the U.K. and 17 percent in the U.S.
They also said the usage of the word “emoji” — which originated from a combination of the Japanese terms “e,” meaning picture, and “moji,” meaning word — has increased threefold this year over last year.
Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, said conventional words have been having a tough time fulfilling the surging needs of visual communication in recent years.
“It’s not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps — it’s flexible, immediate, and infuses tone beautifully,” he said.
Emoji, which first gained popularity among young people, are now spreading among other generations and influential figures.
Oxford University Press mentioned that in a tweet in August, Hillary Rodham Clinton asked her followers to express what they thought about student loans in three emoji or less.
In May, the term “emoji” was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
In April, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned emoji, along with karate, karaoke, manga and anime, as things from Japan that Americans love.