What are smilies?

What Are Smileys?

Smileys, also known as “emoticons”, are glyphs used to convey emotions in your writing. They are a great way to brighten up posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

Text smileys are created by typing two or more punctuation marks. Some examples are:

;-) is equivalent to ๐Ÿ˜‰

:-) is equivalent to ๐Ÿ™‚

:-( is equivalent to ๐Ÿ™

:-? is equivalent to ๐Ÿ˜•

To learn more about emoticons and their history, see the Wikipedia entry on Emoticons.

Smileys are not Emoji

Although smileys and emoji can both display smiley faces and such, emoji are a newer development and have a much wider range of images that can be displayed. (They are also created differently.) For more information on emoji and how to use them, see the Emoji page.

How Does WordPress Handle Smileys?

By default, WordPress automatically converts text smileys to graphic images. When you type ;-) in your post you see ๐Ÿ˜‰ when you preview or publish your post.

To Turn off Graphic Smileys

As of WordPress 4.3, the option to disable graphic smileys was removed from new installs. There is a plugin if you want to retain the option.

What Text Do I Type to Make Smileys?

Smiley images and the text used to produce them*:

icontexttextfull texticonfull text

* In some instances, multiple text options are available to display the same smiley.

Category:Getting Started

Troubleshooting Smileys

Why Doesn’t it Work?

Smileys may have been disabled by your WordPress admin. Another possibility is the smiley image files have been deleted from /wp-includes/images/smilies.

Why Doesn’t it Work for Me?

If smileys work for others at your site but not for you:

Type a space before and after your smiley text. That prevents the smiley being accidentally included in the text around it. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Make sure not to use quotes or other punctuation marks before and after the smiley text. ๐Ÿ™„

Where Are My Smiley Images Kept?

The smiley or emoticon image graphics are found in the /wp-includes/images/smilies directory.

Note that smileys is spelled ‘eys’ in this documentation and the directory name for the smiley images is ‘smilies, spelled ‘ies’. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

How Can I Have Different Smiley Images Appear?

The easiest way is to filter the smilies.

Upload the images you want with the same name to your server (say in wp-content/images/smilies) and put this in your theme’s function.php:

add_filter( 'smilies_src', 'my_custom_smilies_src', 10, 3 );
function my_custom_smilies_src( $img_src, $img, $siteurl )
        return $siteurl.'/wp-content/images/smilies/'.$img;

That will replace http://example.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_question.gif with http://example.com/wp-content/images/smilies/icon_question.gif

Why are my Smiley Images Blank?

If you recently uploaded the images, it could be that the images have been uploaded in ASCII format by your FTP program. Re-upload the smileys ensuring that they are transferred in BINARY format.

Some FTP programs have an auto-detect setting which will upload files in the correct format without user intervention. If you have such a setting, turn it on.

Smiley CSS

The smiley images in WordPress are automatically given a CSS class of wp-smiley when they are displayed in a post. You can use this class to style your smileys differently from other post images.

For example, it’s not uncommon to set up images in a post to appear on the left-hand side of the content with text flowing around the image. The CSS for that might look like this:

.post img {
        float: left;

This would typically affect all images in a post, including your smiley images. To override this so that smileys stay inline, you could add this to your CSS:

img.wp-smiley {
        float: none;

For more on CSS in WordPress, you might want to start here.

More Information on Smileys

Was this article helpful? How could it be improved?

First published

Last updated