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Earliest Usenet uses I can find with Google Groups:

  • smiley face: net.misc - 4 Dec 1982 by cbosgd!djb: [1]
  • smilies: - 26 Mar 1985 by Alan Schmidt: [2]
  • emoticon: comp.sys.amiga - 31 Jan 1987 by jkg: [3]
  • emoticons: rec.humor.d - 28 Jun 1990 by Ray Randolph: [4]

... not complete ... — Hippietrail 01:23, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)

source, mah boi![edit]

In contexts with image-based emoticons, emoticon often refers specifically to image-based glyphs,
while smiley refers to text-based ones.

Why do I get the feeling it's exactly the opposite...? Miasma 11:50, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

I agree with you, emoticons are text-based (e.g., :) ... <;O ... :P ... etc.), smileys are usually graphics (font dingbats or images). —Stephen 18:42, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

A list of emotiontions >=O


=) =( =/ Add more please!

Actual date of first known usage and/or coining?[edit]

The word 'emoticon' is one of those rare instances where there's a potential to document the exact date/time of its original coinage. The first actual usage of what is now called an 'emoticon' has been well documented on the Wikipedia entry, occurring on September 19, 1982. However, I've been looking around a bit and haven't found the first actual reference to the etymology of the word itself: emoticon. Perhaps I just haven't looked hard enough, but even this discussion page only gives an 'earliest found' word-usage of 1987, when it appears the word 'emoticon' was already widespread enough to be understood as a single word without any additional context in the message. (Link given above by Hippietrail.) Unfortunately, Google Groups is has since deteriorated further such that it's no longer possible to do any sort of advanced searching that would be necessary to push this date any further back.

I'm sure that the origin (in a public message, at least) still exists somewhere. If anything, Google probably has record of it, even if they've downgraded their public-facing user interface for searching for it. It's likely that some other organization still has old-enough archives of newsgroups, even if Google vanished overnight.

Is it really the case that the origin of this interesting word will succumb to the curse of Internet linkrot? It would be such a shame if it did. :-( 02:04, 28 January 2020 (UTC)

Further discussion here [5], again citing 1987 as the earliest found. Equinox 07:48, 28 January 2020 (UTC)