Should Emojis be used in tags? 😎

Personally, I map guideposts that have a symbol in name, with the appropriate Unicode symbol. That’s why the symbols are there.
Take e.g. this guidepost. The meaning of this is “This guidepost is in the town of Nýrsko near a bus stop or a bus station”. So what is the correct name?
I believe in the On the Ground principle. I see a bus in the name, I put :bus: in the name. If there is a way to find a more official name without the emoji, I would use this. But if such a rigid organization as the Czech tourist club can use Unicode on their guideposts, I believe we can handle it in OSM.
I’m against putting emojis in places, where an official name is different and can be found OtG, like in some of the examples above.

Please note, this is more to illustrate the principle. In this case, the “official” name is Nýrsko (BUS), but we don’t have the permission to copy from this database. Edit: Also, “Bus” is not a Czech word, it is an abbreviation of “Autobus”, but in this case maybe “Autobusová stanice” (bus station) - who knows what I should put there?


And if you see a train, like in your example, you would put a locomotive, right? Meaning that it’s a steam train, not any other kind. Because in your example, it’s clearly a locomotive. Or not? Also, what do you use for that orange zig-zag line? I’m not sure; I don’t have any specific aversion to emoticons here, but they are too open to interpretation both ways: when you transfer them to the OSM map, and back, when our customers view them. It turns into a game with rebuses :wink:


Yes, I would use a locomotive. Probably the steam one, if there is one on the picture, yes. :steam_locomotive: Because that is the closest to what it says on the ground. One example.

That is not in the name, that is a symbol of the route. That is record-able using the wiki:symbol tag.

What do you mean “open to interpretation”? It is as close to the signposted name as possible. The symbol itself might be open to interpretation, but I would rather the data user to do the interpretation than the mapper.
If you mean that there could be several Unicode symbols for the symbol on the sign, I agree - and it can potentially cause problems to data consumers. But in my opinion, it is still better, than mappers guessing what the symbol means and writing their interpretation to the name tag.

1 Like

Yes, that’s what I mean indeed.

1 Like

Are you sure it’s part of the name? Naïvely, I would interpret this pictogram as destination:symbol=bus_station, based on similar standard signage on guide signs along motorways, and tag the destination as “Nýrsko” as you suggest.

Interesting that you should mention the guideline encouraging us to expand abbreviations in tags. :wink:


The top sign with the name is the name of the guidepost, that one doesn’t show any destination, if you don’t count “here” as a destination :slight_smile:
But it certainly makes sense to me for the usages in Switzerland and Slovakia mentioned above.

That is the point, it is not clear what to expand this to. Sure, I can write literally “Nýrsko autobus”, but that seems a bit like an equivalent of translating the mentioned “I​:heart:NY” to “I heart New York”. Now imagine a shop named “I :heart: Praha” in Prague, how would you expand this Czech/English mix? This raises so many questions…

Don’t take me wrong, if the community comes with a good set of rules for this, I will change my ways of tagging. So far I didn’t see any good reason to put emojis to tags anywhere except these guidepost names (edit: and the potential “I :heart: XX” shops and similar). But I wanted to give an example where it actually makes sense to tag like this. In my opinion. Which is not shared by the Czech community, by the way :wink:

I would omit emojis from OSM completely. They are merely stylised versions of the intended messages (names, destinations, train stations etc.), and since they are not plain text they are prone to misinterpretation by humans and software alike.


I agree mostly, perhaps with an exception for fields like inscription=* where I find it possible for a piece of written text to have an emoji in it, but it should clearly be an emoji and not an emoji standing in for a pictogram (like in the :walking_man:hiking example) or a logo (like in the Chili’s example)


I personally would argue for name=I ♥ Hair as it’s what’s on the sign when someone’s looking for the store, and for search engine purposes, I’d add official_name=I Love Hair


It is not a guidepost, but a route_marker, when it has only the pictogram of a hiker on it

1 Like

It is not a guidepost, but a route_marker, when it has only the pictogram of a hiker on it

Definitively, haven’t thought of this!
I will try to get in touch with @vmicho with the aim to change those guideposts to route markers (in a while, as I’m currently on vacation with limited connectivity).

Never. Nobody knows emoji language:
:call_me_hand:- this is “let’s drink” in Russia
:hand_with_index_finger_and_thumb_crossed:- if you are not familiar with Korea and move these two fingers it means “money”
:pray:- high five
🅢𒀭 - I even don’t understand what it is at all
It may looks cool on the map for the owner but useless for customers.
Opposite side of that is anybody must have opportunity to search for that POI. I♥️NY - I see as I red heart N Y. How to search for it and who will translate I love New York to these 4 letters?
inscription= and alt_name= are more suitable for that
As for guideposts - it’s totally wrong, let’s map road signs with emojis. It’s the same as tagging here (on the left a little) like this:

name=Whiskey Blender Wine And Brandy Shipper The Queen's Head

or a little to the North:

name=Budgens 24 hours Budgens 24 hours

Turn on mind and translate these symbols into corresponding tags.


I’ve seen OSM like fine wine, I’ve seen OSM like coffee with dregs.

Thank you for your post!

Anyways, emoji are just a special case of a symbol. It’s only tempting to use them because the playful colors stand out amid dull plain text. But other kinds of rebuses have been in use for a long time, and it isn’t clear that we should prefer them over spelled-out text.

In North America, a university fraternity or sorority is typically known by a series of three Greek letters. Their logos – often signposted – consist of these letters, but their names are actually the names of the letters:

For example, a hypothetical fraternity named “Omega Sigma Mu” would have a logo resembling “ΩΣΜ”, but unless the fraternity’s mission is the promotion of Greek language studies, it would probably more often use “OSM” or “Omegas” as shorthand in English. Mappers sometimes tag the Greek letters as name because they’re shorter and thus more likely to render, but this would be a poor rationale for a naming choice.

In the western U.S., cattle ranches are often named after cattle brands. Some brands are so well-known that otherwise standard highway signs sometimes use them as abbreviations. For example, here’s “Pitchfork Southcamp” abbreviated with the ranch’s brand on a West Texas destination sign:

This usage has crept into the names of steakhouses, music venues, towns, and even presumably the international convenience store chain Circle K, which began in West Texas.

Even though this visual language is sometimes embedded in running prose, Unicode doesn’t specifically encode cattle brands or even have lookalikes for many of them. Most of these brands need to be spelled out anyways, because the proper full form can vary case by case.

There’s also the broader question of how far we should go in simulating a stylized name. This local television station is branded “ThinkTV”, and they go out of their way to use the superscript in all of their webpages and press releases.

In plain text, we could simulate the superscripts as “Thinkᵀⱽ”, but this is a misuse of phonetic symbols. “ThinkTV” would be more correct; if a renderer really cares that much about the organization’s brand guidelines, it can use the wikidata tag to find a logo to display.

1 Like

I also use an emoji (I think for the first time ?) on this object Way: 1199471876 | OpenStreetMap I think it’s a good way to informe of what if is, instead of description=*

It’s more common to tag a reproduction of a flag design with flag:type/flag:name/flag:wikidata, even if it isn’t a textile flag flying from a flagpole. Examples:

As tempting as it might be to use emoji for this purpose, Unicode only includes a very small selection of flags as emoji. The flag:* tags are much more extensible:

These tags don’t indicate that the flag design is laid out in a waving flag shape, as in your example or this waving :cn: geoglyph. But note that many emoji fonts display flags like :north_korea: as rectangles anyways.

1 Like

Today I surveyed and mapped the below t-shirt shop with name=I ❤️ Florence. Using an emoji seemed like the closest name value to what’s on the ground and therefore the least-wrong thing to do. If it’s the best representation of the on-the-ground reality, I see no reason why we should avoid using an emoji just because we don’t like pictographs.


That’s perfectly fine as a first pass, because you don’t know at a glance whether :heart: is shorthand for “Love” or “Heart”. But if someone later comes along who knows that it’s actually called “I Love Florence”, for example, I hope we can agree that the emojified version can go in alt_name instead.

In the meantime, it’s suboptimal that anyone listening to their phone will hear “I Red Heart Florence”, per the Unicode standard. (This is not the job of a name:pronunciation override any more than one would “clarify” that those World Scouting flags above the storefront are actually in red and white for some reason.) On the bright side, the :heart: character does explicitly conjure in the user’s mind a red-colored heart, whereas could be any color. (Just don’t tell osm-carto, which renders both characters in purple.)

I ♥ Florence

Call me a spoilsport, but I just hope whoever unabbreviated “𝙸 :crescent_moon::heart: 𝙼 :palm_tree: 𝙱” as “I Heart MB” won’t get overruled on the basis of liking pictographs. Instead, it matters more that the shop owner uses “:heart:” when they can and “Heart” when they can’t – that’s a much better reason to introduce an emoji.

Sign for a shop whose logo consists of the letters I, B, and M in black monospaced type, with a white crescent moon inscribed on a red heart after the I and a white palmetto tree between the M and B (© 2016 Duane Gearhart, CC BY-SA 4.0)

I think it’s wonderful that OSM can document the use of emoji in the wild. But if I go ahead and retag one of my city’s largest employers to name=:a: on account of their logo (and not their blood type), it makes it more difficult to distinguish the real emoji from wishful thinking.

1 Like

I think it’s not only tts, it’s all kind of “none-visual” interaction with the data. Like just a simple search fro an :apple:-Store might turn into a nightmare… How to get the “apple-emoji” into the search bar and if so, is it the red :apple: or green :green_apple: one and shouldn’t it be the white one? :smiley:

I also have an example I am struggling with recently.
A hiking path in Austria, with the official name Assweg der Herz-Ass Villgratental but with the unofficial name (or just the logo?) :heart:A.

I mapped this hiking route like this in OSM | Waymarked Trails. As the heart shows up on every sign post in the area and also in the official Alpine Club / Kompass map, that is the symbol I also chose for that route.

I do not like Emojis, but I think using the heart emoji is the best representation of this route.

Now I am wondering if I also should use the :heart:A also in the ref tag. Is it a bad idea to have emoj in there?
I am also not sure what the ref tag for hiking relations will be actually used for in the end.

1 Like