Emojis have a history going back 5,000 years

Will we all write in emojis soon? A new British Library exhibition looks at the history of writing, starting with hieroglyphs and ending with emojis. They have more in common than you might think…

What’s happening


Can you work out what these emojis mean? It is the history of writing at the British Library. A new exhibition on the subject opens there today!

Writing: Making Your Mark looks at 5,000 years of writing. It compares Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to emojis.

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Five thousand years ago, Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs for their sacred writing. Sometimes the symbols stood for a whole word, sometimes just a sound.

They took a long time to write. Our alphabet is much quicker!

Today, we also use emojis in texts and on the internet. These are pictograms (pictures which look like the thing they represent). A smiley face means happy. A book means a book.

Some people think emojis are taking us back to the time of hieroglyphs in Ancient Egypt.

Could we all be writing with emojis one day?

Some say…

❤️❗Emojis are great. Anyone can understand them, no matter what language you speak. They are simple and quick to use. You do not even have to worry about spelling. Bring it on!

Others think…

❌❗Emojis will never replace real writing. They are too simple. You cannot make full sentences with them. This article would not make sense if it was only written in emojis. We need both.

You Decide

  1. Which is your favourite emoji?


  1. Write one or two paragraphs using only emojis. Swap it with the person next to you. Do you understand one another’s writing?

Some People Say...

“You can make anything by writing.”

C.S. Lewis

What do you think?

Word Watch

The digital icons used to represent words or emotions. They were first used 20 years ago in Japan.
A picture of an object which represents a word or sound. Writing using hieroglyphs is called “hieroglyphics”.
Special or holy. In this case, Egyptians used hieroglyphics for the royal family, religious texts, or to record big events.
A system of letters which each represent sounds.


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