:3 / Cat Face

:3 / Cat Face

Part of a series on Emoticons. [View Related Entries]

Updated Feb 07, 2022 at 04:25AM EST by Autumn Able.

Added Oct 20, 2009 at 05:43AM EDT by Tom Moore.

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:3, also referred to as the “cat face,” is an emoticon mimicking a cute facial expression often worn by moe characters featured in Japanese manga and animes. In text and online communications, the emoticon is most commonly used to convey affection or a sense of childlike innocence.


:3 can be seen as a horizontal variant of (‘ω’), a well-known Japanese emoticon representing a cat’s face that first became popular through its frequently usage on Japanese text and image board sites, most notably on 2channel, as well as other online communities since the early 2000s.


On September 28th, 2003, Urban Dictionary[1] user Alex submitted the earliest known English-language definition for :3, describing it as a Japanese emoticon for the anime “cat face.”

:3 A symbol meant to represent the cat face made by anime characters when they says or sarcastic, or are commenting on something cute. clever, "Isn't it just adorable?:3 by Alex September 28, 2003 Colon Three Word version of the smiley:3 its pretty much a hamster face,sort of a but mouth You use the when your happy,blissful,peaceful,etc. Look at my new shoes!:3 Colon three! by maddiechan December 17, 2006

On May 30th, 2005, Urban Dictionary[2] user Jeshua submitted an entry for =3, defining it as an emoticon expressing “cuteness or affection,” and on December 17th, 2006, Urban Dictionary user maddiechan submitted an entry for "colon three," a textual transliteration of the punctuation mark and the number that make up the emoticon, described as a "hamster face, sort of a butt-mouth" used when one feels happy or blissful. On April 17th, 2009, YouTuber Ray William Johnson launched the web series titled “=3” in reference to the emoticon. On June 14th, 2010, an anonymous Quora[3] user submitted the question “What does the emoticon :3 mean?”, to which user Matt Carter replied that it was a “cat face” used to “express happiness.” On May 1st, 2013, a page for “Cat Smile” was created for the manga and anime facial expression on TV Tropes,[4] which distinguished the implication of the smile as playfully mischievous rather than manipulative or sinister.

[Help!] The Girl I Like Won’t Respond to My Emails

“[Help!] The Girl I Like Won’t Respond to My Emails (´・ω・`)” refers to a series of confessional anecdotes posted by an anonymous user on the Japanese message board 2channel in 2011. Over the course of five threads, a self-declared college-age male poster described his infatuation and obsession with a girl he called Denko. After an English translation was posted to Tumblr in April 2012, the story was turned into an alternate reality game on the site.

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External References

[1] Urban Dictionary – :3

[2] Urban Dictionary – =3

[3] Quora – What does the emoticon :3 mean?

[4] TV Tropes – Cat Smile

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