How to Get Emoji Definitions on iPhone & iPad Quickly

Dec 28, 2012 - 3 Comments

Define Emoji on iPhone

Did someone send an Emoji to your iPhone, iPod, or iPad and you have not the faintest of clues as to what it’s supposed to mean? With the vast array of emoji icons out there, you’re not alone, but there’s an excellent little-known feature that uses iOS text-to-speech to give a precise definition of the emoji icon in question, spoken right to you. We’ll show you exactly how to use the Speak function to define any Emoji character on iOS.


Before starting you’ll want to do two things: First, if you haven’t yet enabled the incredibly useful text-to-speech ability in iOS so that the “Speak” button is available to apps, take a moment to do that through the Accessibility settings – beyond the purpose of this article it’s a great feature in general and really should just be enabled by default in iOS. Also, do yourself a favor and enable the Emoji keyboard in iOS so that you’ll be able to get definitions before sending them off to others in conversations, plus the ability to use them in messages and elsewhere yourself.

How to Define Emoji Icons in iOS by Having iPhone Tell You The Emoji Meaning

The speech function of iOS will literally tell you the meaning of an Emoji character by speaking it to you. This will work to get the definition of an emojicon from anywhere that text is selectable in iOS, whether it’s on iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, here’s how it works:

  1. Tap and hold on the Emoji icon(s) to define
  2. From the pop-up menu, select “Speak” when the button becomes available (you may need to hit the Arrow > button to see more options in the popup menu of iOS)
  3. The iOS system voice will define the emoji(s) selected by speaking the literal Emoji name and explanation to you, this is done using the same voice as Siri

Here’s what this looks like on a new iPhone:

Define Emoji on iPhone with the Speak command

This works in all versions of iOS as long as you have the Speak function (all devices do, you may need to enable it on some older iPhone and ipads though).

Define Emoji in iOS with Speak

Of course this is useful for actually knowing what an icon is supposed to mean, and it’s actually the only current way to get the definition of an Emoji icon from iPhone or iPad.

Aside from that, it can also be pretty fun to listen to the differences and explanations for the many different emojis, which is ever growing to an increasingly wide variety of creative and amusing emojis that exist in the character palettes of iOS and OS X. Listening to Siri’s voice define them can be absolutely hilarious, and for added amusement try stringing together a series of random and unrelated emoji and then selecting all of them to define, which results in Siri’s voice spewing out unintentionally funny gibberish.

Many different Emoji icons

Some emoji is kind of obvious what it means, this one is quite literal when you ask the iPhone or iPad tell you it’s meaning:

The Smiling Pile of Poop Emoji

Figuring out what an emoji is supposed to mean is really easy on a Mac too, because a simple worded definition is provided within the Special Characters panel of OS X where you select them to begin with, though the Mac can also speak them to you if you want. In iOS, there simply isn’t room for such a definition, and that’s why you’ll have to use the speaking feature instead.

Thanks for the tip Mithilesh! If you know of another fancy way to define an emoji from the iPhone or iPad, let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

3 Comments

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  1. Alan says:

    Crap does not work at all. Select speak and expect nothing💬

  2. Haruhiko says:

    Thanks for the tips! It works.

  3. leslie says:

    what emoji is this 🎐

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