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In an age where people are limited to 140 characters and reply to messages with a "thumbs up" instead of letters, it was arguably just a matter of time until the emoji replaced words as our chosen form of pithy communication.
Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is the icon of a yellow smiling face with two tears welling up in its eyes - known as "face with tears of joy".
— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) November 16, 2015
It was chosen as the word or expression which best captured the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015.
The little picture of a crying, smiling face pipped a host of actual words to the top spot, pushing aside language on subjects from global politics and current affairs to technology and pop culture.
Although that emoji is top "word" - following in the footsteps of "vape", "selfie" and "omnishambles" - there are no plans to include the icons themselves in any Oxford dictionary.
According to the judges, "emoji have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate", the Press Association reports.
Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, said: "You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication.
"It's not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps - it's flexible, immediate, and infuses tone beautifully. As a result emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders.
"When Andy Murray tweeted out his wedding itinerary entirely in emoji, for example, he shared a subtle mix of his feelings about the day directly with fans around the world. It was highly effective in expressing his emotions."
The face with tears of joy icon was the most widely used emoji in the world this year, research by Oxford University Press and mobile business technology firm SwiftKey found.
Frequency of use of the emoji
Its use in 2015 grew four-fold on the previous 12 months in the UK, where it accounts for 20% of all emojis used.
Mr Grathwohl said "face with tears of joy" captured a sense of "playfulness and intimacy that embodies emoji culture itself".
He added: "Emoji culture has become so popular that individual characters have developed their own trends and stories.
"They can serve as insightful windows through which to view our cultural preoccupations, so it seemed appropriate to reflect this emoji obsession by selecting one as this year's word of the year."
Shortlist of 2015's Word of the Year
Other words in the shortlist included the technology terms "ad blocker" - software to stop adverts appearing on web pages - and "dark web", part of the internet that can only be reached by special software.
Meanwhile the pronoun "they" is now increasingly being used in the singular to refer to a person of unspecified sex.
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