Let me just start by stating the obvious: Flirting is embarrassing. It’s embarrassing when you do it, it’s embarrassing when I do it, and I’m pretty sure the first thing they make you do at the gates of hell is watch a montage of all the times you’ve attempted it. This is not to say that flirting can’t be fun! It often is—for you. Just not for everyone else around you watching you do it. For them, it’s awk. Sorry, these are just facts.
This is why flirting via text is kind of the move. Not only does it keep your flirtatious exchange between you and the object of your affections, but it also gives you the time and space to craft the perfect cute-but-not-too-risky reply. And what’s the key to expertly toeing that line between cute and risky? A flirty emoji.
A well-placed flirty emoji can do a number of things for your texting (and flirting) game. It can turn up the heat on an otherwise innocent message, soften the edges of an otherwise too blatantly horny one, or generally leave the recipient guessing (and asking the group chat) what exactly your emoji choice means. And that, friends, is right where you want ’em.
More From Cosmopolitan
Of course, context matters. Some emojis that are certifiably not flirty in most scenarios might turn out to be very suggestive indeed when you’re sliding into a crush’s DMs. That’s the beauty of emojis, really: They are what you need them to be.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the world of flirty emojis, shall we? Here are 20 of the flirtiest that can fully turn a friendly conversation up a few notches. You’re welcome in advance.
1. The iconic wink 😉
You can’t go wrong with a classic winky face emoji. Whether you’re testing the waters or moving forward with full flirty force, sprinkling a winky emoji here and there is guaranteed to signal to your crush that you’re flirting hard.
Plus, the winky face emoji has the special ability to turn any conversation into a playful repartee. For example, regular sentences like, “What are you doing?”, “I’m going to bed,” and “Can’t wait to see you” are instantly transformed into some serious flirting once this emoji is plopped in.
2. The eyes 👀
It’s true: Your eyes really say so much. I like to use the eyes emoji when I’m feeling bold and, most often, when I’m swiping up on someone’s thirst trap Instagram selfie. No one knows exactly what the emoji means, but there’s underlying sexual energy to it and I’m here for it.
3. The purple, devil-y smiley face 😈
Nothing says “I’m flirting with you” more than a little bit of this mischievous thing. Even if you’re not saying anything outwardly sexual, tacking on one of these bad boys is sure to send the message that you’re in a naughty mood. And if your crush wasn’t thinking of you like that before, they definitely will now.
4. This blushy kissy face 😚
This one is lower stakes than your classic kissy face with the heart (😘). She’s casual, she’s cool. She’s giving you a peck on the cheek goodbye before she heads off to go do hot girl shit you know nothing about. In other words, this is exactly the vibe you wanna be sending if you’re creeping towards verified kiss emoji status with someone, but aren’t ready to take the leap into full-on heart-kissy territory, you know? You know.
5. The pleading, I’m-begging-for-you emoji 🥺
If you’ve stumbled upon the “I’m baby” memes, you know that playing innocent can be a subtle but effective way of flirting. The pleading face emoji is a favorite of mine because it can be added to any sentence and have the same effect. Your co-texter will look at you (/their phone screen) like you’re the most adorable thing to walk the planet (which you are, of course).
6. The smirk 😏
While the smiling face with horns emoji sends the message that you’re bad bad, the smirking face emoji is the way to go if you’re trying to see how mischievous the other person is. I like to use this emoji whenever there’s a feeling of friendly competition involved or when I’m daring someone to do something. Just be prepared for the flirting to heat up a bit after hitting send.
7. These stars ✨
This baby adds a little ~mystique~ to literally anything you want to say. These stars don’t mean anything in particular, but they add a little sparkle—a little “Who Is SHE?” to an otherwise run-of-the-mill convo. If you wanna bring some witchy vibes that will keep them guessing, slap one of these on the end of your next message—literally any message at all.
8. The wink and tongue combo 😜
We’ve talked about the winky face emoji, but the winking face with tongue? That’s a whole other level. Part of the art of flirting is figuring out when to be a little discreet and when to be a little louder. And while the winky face is a sure-fire way to let someone know you’re flirting, adding a tongue can bring an extra layer of a fun and sexiness to your texting.
9. The sorta subtle, but totally flirty hug 🤗
Sometimes the best way to flirt is to be subtle about it. Sure, winky faces and tongue emojis are great, but when you really want to test your skills as a flirter, use the hugging smiley face to get your point across. Smileys can definitely be used in a strictly platonic fashion, but when you use them in sentences that can be taken as flirty, there’s an added sense of excitement as your crush tries to decipher if you’re trying to really flirt or not. We love to see it.
10. This sun ☀️
Okay, so you’re probably thinking: “What’s so flirty about the sun?” And you’re right—the answer is literally nothing. But when you’re in the early stages of a flirtationship and have just started exchanging good morning texts, the sun emoji is your new BFF. If you don’t want to seem *too* invested but you do want to add a little something to your morning greeting without going overboard, Mr. Sunshine is where it’s at.
11. Your moon emoji of choice (🌛, 🌜, 🌕, etc)
See: Everything I just said about the sun emoji and good morning texts, but make it the moon emoji and goodnight texts.
12. The peach booty 🍑
Whether you’re talking about your own booty or your crush’s, the peach emoji is a playful way to bring up bodies and sex without being creepy. It will essentially take your flirting to the next level. Just remember to assess whether it seems appropriate to take things to that level, of course. Nothing kills a good flirting spree faster than springing sexual convo when it isn’t welcome.
13. The girth-y eggplant 🍆
This is a great emoji to use when your flirting is starting to veer into the sexual side. Who knew vegetables could be so hot?
14. This lady 💁♀️
She’s sassy! That’s her whole deal! (Technically, according to Apple, she is actually the Information Desk Woman emoji, but literally no one uses her like that, so, IDK, seems irrelevant.) If you wanna inject a little playfully bratty energy into your next text to your crush (which we thoroughly encourage), this gal will send the right message.
15. This love letter 💌
This love letter is cute. This love letter is tragically underrated. More people should be using this love letter emoji, and what better place than in a flirty text to your crush? It’s obscure enough that they’ll be like, “Wait, what?” But cute enough that they’ll get the picture.
16. This heart with an arrow through it 💘
This heart emoji not-quite-literally-but-kinda-literally translates to: “I’m smitten with you.” Which…might sound like a lot! BUT! It’s underused enough that it doesn’t feel like Too Much, you know? It feels fun and playful and sweet, which is what flirting is all about, baby.
17. This not-so-innocent angel 😇
We love her. This emoji is all, “What? Who, me?” *Bats eyelashes.*
18. These classic double hearts 💕
Of the heart emojis, this one is arguably the safest. Like, if you wanna drop a low-stakes heart to a crush, this is the one—the starter heart, if you will. They’ll get the picture, yes, but it doesn’t carry the same weight/risk as some of the more objectively romantic emoji heart options.
19. Your (or their) zodiac emoji (♓️, ♈️, ♏️, etc.)
Sending someone your zodiac emoji (or theirs) suggests one of two things: You want them to know and understand you on a deep, cosmic level, and/or you have already plugged your birthdays into an astrological compatibility calculator and may or may not be reading their horoscope on the daily to see if today is the day they’ll finally realize they’re actually in love with you. Need I say more?
20. The hawt emoji 🥵
A big part of flirting is hyping up the person you’re talking to. And while compliments like “beautiful,” “handsome,” and “sexy” can go a long way, so can certain emojis—especially this one. The hot face emoji can be used for a couple of different things—one being a warning to your friends that it’s a scorcher outside. But it can also be used to let your crush know how hot you think they are.
Syeda is a writer for Cosmopolitan who likes to analyze and improve the way we look at sex as a way to topple the patriarchy. She also writes for Bustle.com, Muslim Girl, and Muslim.co. You can follow her on Twitter here and Instagram here.
Associate Sex & Relationships Editor