Someone sent me an emoji in a text on an iPhone. How can I lookup the "description" of what it represents using the native UI?

Ideally I want to lookup the unicode name / description, but a data point will do. I'm interested in an answer for current versions of iOS and MacOS.

On MacOS it's fairly easy to extract the data point from the emoji by looking at the hex codes of the character, but that doesn't work on iOS.

I know that I can find an emoji from a text description when sending a message. But I see no obvious way to "reverse map" the emoji when I receive one.

For reference I was sent this: ❤️👈

emoji screencap

and want to know how I could send that "left pointing finger" myself.


On iOS

On iOS (and watchOS) you can use the Workflow app (which incidentally Apple has just purchased). It's free and is a fantastic tool for many reasons.

Within the app, one of the included workflows is called Name That Emoji. This allows you to enter your emoji and it'll give you the system name for it.

On macOS

On macOS you can use the keyboard menu bar icon to view the names. More specifically:

  1. Go to Apple > System Preferences > Keyboard
  2. Ensure the Keyboard tab is selected
  3. Ensure the checkbox for Show Keyboard, Emoji and Symbol Viewers in menu bar is ticked
  4. This will add a Keyboard Menu icon to the macOS menu bar
  5. Exit System Preferences
  6. Click on the Keyboard Menu icon in the menu bar and select Show Emoji & Symbols
  7. Once it opens, click on the Emoji option in the left-hand pane
  8. Now select an Emoji
  9. You'll notice that on the right-hand side you'll see the selected Emoji as well as its name/meaning

NOTE: Steps 1-5 are only required to add the keyboard icon to the menu bar. Once you have added it (or if it's already in your menu bar) these steps are not required.

  • 2
    Simpler on MacOS: Control-click on emoji, select Search with Google. Or Control-click on emoji, select Copy, Edit > Emoji & Symbols, Command-V into search box of Characters pane. – Tom Gewecke Apr 6 '17 at 4:52
  • @TomGewecke you ought to post that as an answer. The google lookup is effortless on MacOS and even tolerable on iOS with cut and paste into Safari. Still seems like there would be a more built in way to do it though. – Mark Edington Apr 6 '17 at 10:51
  • @TomGewecke Thanks for the comment - I had totally forgotten about the Search with Google option. – Monomeeth Apr 6 '17 at 11:56
  • @MarkEdington Agreed! I am surprised there isn't a better (or native) way to do this within iOS. Perhaps someone else will offer another suggestion. – Monomeeth Apr 6 '17 at 11:57
  • 1
    @MarkEdington no need to copy/paste in iOS. Just select, choose Look Up, and then Search Web. – Tom Gewecke Apr 6 '17 at 17:11

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