To understand every moment of Twitch — every pitfall, every win, every ridiculous play — is to understand the emotes, those instantaneous reactions in the right sidebar. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of emotes being sent over Twitch chat every second, and to someone who’s just ventured in to check out a stream, it can be a little daunting.
Emotes have their ups and downs. Some, like Kappa, are used to help people communicate with one another during incredible streaming moments while the chat moves at breakneck speeds. Other people may start using an innocuous emote designed around a popular streamer for insulting or harmful reasons. Being part of Twitch culture means tuning into emotes as they emerge and evolve. That’s easier said than done.
New emotes are introduced all the time. Extensions like BTTV make it easier for third-parties to integrate emotes into Twitch, circumventing the platform’s own rules. Not to mention that an emote’s meaning in one community can be totally different in another. It’s all very headache inducing if you’re not in deep.
To get you up to speed, we’ve compiled a list of popular emotes below, with the intention of adding more if any rise in popularity, and updating the explanations if the emotes change in meaning. If a particular emote isn’t on the list, but is popular within the circle of streamers you follow, the best way to understand what it means and how it’s used is to ask in chat, on Twitter or check out the streamer’s Reddit page for further details.
Polygon spoke with Don Caldwell, Know Your Meme’s managing editor, to help explain why some of these emotes are incredibly popular.
What it means: Kappa is a starting point for anyone trying to enter and understand Twitch culture, according to Caldwell. The emote is based on former Justin.TV employee, Josh DeSeno, who was charged with setting up the chat client. People mainly use or spam Kappa as a way of carrying out a sarcastic reply to something happening on stream.
“It is the kind of quintessential emote,” Caldwell said. “It might get briefly taken over by Trihard or ForsenE or another popular emote, but it remains at the top consistently. It’s almost a requirement to know what Kappa is.”
When to use it: If a streamer does something that makes you roll your eyes or clap with a sarcastic bite, this is the emote to use.
What it means: TriHard is an extremely popular yet controversial emote — and it has a detailed history. Based on a face made by streamer TriHex while at an anime convention in Dallas, the emote didn’t officially become “TriHard” until 2014 when TriHex was speedrunning Yoshi’s Island and noticed a Twitch staff member hanging out in chat. TriHex told Kotaku he did everything possible to get their attention and, essentially, was trying way too hard. So he became TriHard.
The emote is mostly innocuous, though in recent years it’s been used with racist connotations by some Twitch users. By mid-2016 and into 2017, users would spam the screen with TriHard whenever a black streamer appeared, often punctuating racist remarks made in-chat. TriHex finally spoke about the emote’s weaponization. He argued that banning the emote meant the bad actors won when there was nothing obscene or offensive about the emote’s conception.
When to use it: If something exciting happens on screen, hype is building or an exciting announcement is made, feel free to use this emote. Remember, however, to be aware of who is on screen when the emote is being used, and ensure that your hype message doesn’t read as insulting or offensive.
PogChamp, one of the oldest emotes on Twitch, is based on Gootecks, a professional Street Fighter player, and is mainly used to express surprise in response to something happening on stream. PogChamp is based on this video from 2000, but was given the name PogChamp because of a Mad Catz fight stick promo released in 2011 for a tournament that Gootecks was competing in.
PogChamp is still one of the most popular emotes, and part of the reason is because it’s pretty safe.
How to use it: If you want to express being surprised or excited by something.
4head is pretty self-explanatory when it comes to visuals. It’s an emote based on a photo of League of Legends’ streamer Cadburry’s widely grinning face. The emote started to pick up in 2015. It’s a pretty wholesome meme, that is mostly used to express a reaction to a joke being made. The reaction can either be seen as an earnest response or sarcastic.
How to use it: In reaction to a joke.
Unlike TriHard, cmonbruh’s emote has always been slightly controversial. It’s difficult to pinpoint when CmonBruh really became a meme, but the earliest known mention dates back to 2016, according to Know Your Meme. The emote is primarily used to express confusion over something being said on stream, usually in response to a chat participant saying something with a racist connotation. The emote is also used, however, to illustrate a more general confusion — hence the “c’mon, bruh” language.
How to use it: If someone says something that is completely baffling and absurd.
LUL may seem pretty obvious —t’s the Twitch emote equivalent to LOL, but it has a serpentine history. LUL is based on streamer and YouTuber TotalBiscuit, whose real name is John Bain. Although Bain added the “LUL” emote to Twitch himself, it was later removed following a DMCA takedown request from the photographer who took the photo.
Since Twitch didn’t want to touch the emote because of legal concerns, according to Bain, he uploaded the photo to BTTV. BTTV, otherwise known as BetterTTV, is a third-party browser extension that allows people to use emotes in chat. Since these aren’t run through Twitch directly, the emotes often circumvent rules. This meant LUL could exist as an emote — a very, very popular emote — on Twitch despite the DMCA takedown. It only grew from there.
How to use it: If you want to express deep laughter.
LuL is LUL — it’s just the BTTV version. What’s most interesting about LuL, however, are the multiple variations that it’s birthed. There’s OmegaLUL, which features Bain’s laughing face but with wider mouth; OmegaLUL CD, which covers his mouth with a CD and was recently removed from Twitch because of controversy surrounding it; there are so many different variation of the LuL emote based on photos of different streamers laughing. There are so many variations that all stem from one joke but mean wildly different things, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of.
The best advice when using a LuL variation is to do a bit of research before using a specific emote. See how people in the community use the emote in chat, or check to see if conversations are happening on Reddit. The only way to safely use emotes in chat is to be informed about the connotation and message being sent.
“Memes in general are about cultural literacy,” Caldwell said. “How can you show your membership to certain subculture? This is exactly what’s going on with Twitch emotes, and some of these are really hard to grasp. Being able to have a firm grasp of how these emotes work is important in order to participate. I think we’re going to see more and more emotes, and more and more variations of the same emotes.”
LuL is a good place to explore those types of variations because most of them are still directly related to laughing at something, and that’s a near universal language.
How to use it: Again, depending on the context, it’s used if you want to express extraordinary laughter at something.
Finally, we’ve reached the cringe emote. haHAA is based on a photo of Andy Samberg’s face from a Lonely Island music video that aired on Saturday Night Live in 2010. The specific “haHAA” is a text translation of the awkward laugh Samberg produces in the video, as seen below.
The emote was introduced in 2015, but didn’t pick up steam until 2016 thanks to the speedrunning community. GamesDoneQuick, a semiannual charity event that brings together top speed runners, used the emote to express their discomfort if something cringe-worthy happened during the speedrun or on stream. The emote continued to grow, and was eventually banned by GDQ organizers because of the bullying connotation.
As it became more popular, members of the Twitch community began to associate the cringe-worthiness with young kids on the platform. “I’m 12, btw” became punctuated by hahaa as a way of pointing to someone with the immaturity of a 12-year-old. It has since then become an emote used to illustrate a cringe-worthy moment on stream, and insult other people.
How to use it: If something happens on-stream or in-game that makes you cringe, you can use haHAA. That said, try not to be a total jerk on Twitch.
SourPls is another older emote that was taken from a YouTube video and made into a BTTV emote in 2014. The emote’s name, based on the YouTube user who uploaded it, stars SourNotHardcore (a staff member at Twitch) dancing in a store. He’s got a goofy grin on his face. The emote has since gone through many variations with one of the most popular being ForsenPls. The emote went through its own period of troubles (the fact that it was animated caused problems for BTTV), but has since emerged as one of the most popular-to-date.
How to use it: If you want to celebrate a particularly good event on stream.
FeelsBadMan and FeelsGoodMan are two of the most popular Pepe the Frog variations, alongside EZ and PepeHands that we’ll get into below. The emote is based on artist Matt Furie’s Pepe the Frog, a longstanding comic character that became co-opted and weaponized by the alt-right during the 2016 election cycle. It’s one of the most recognizable memes on the internet, but Know Your Meme’s Caldwell said its use as an emote on Twitch is particularly interesting. The rest of the world associates Pepe the Frog with political ties, but Caldwell suggests that Twitch’s Pepe use remains largely unpolitical.
“Once all the controversy happened with Pepe in recent years — especially in the 2016 election — people were left wondering what the future of Pepe was,” Caldwell said. “Will he be able to escape this connotation? On Twitch, yes. Pepe is living in a non-political context, and completely divorced from politics. On Twitch, with these emotes, there’s no political connotation.”
That’s debatable. People know what Pepe the Frog means in 2018 — it’s why certain organizations like the Overwatch League don’t let people bring Pepe the Frog signs to events. Pepe the Frog’s existence as a Twitch emote is so sophisticated and ever changing that it can exist as its own article, but there are certainly some emotes that are more popular than others. FeelsBadMan and FeelsGoodMan are precisely what they sound like. One version of the frog, FeelsBadMan, is used to express disappointment over something on screen. The other, FeelsGoodMan, is used to celebrate an accomplishment. “Feels Good Man” is based on a line the original Pepe the Frog character said in Furie’s comic strip. Think of FeelsBadMan and FeelsGoodMan as Twitch’s own tragedy and comedy drama masks.
How to use it: Depending on the situation, if you want to express a feeling of deep sadness or joy over something that’s happened, use FeelsBadMan or FeelsGoodMan.
There’s a lot to break down to really understand gachiGASM. The term “gachimuchi” is a Japanese phrase that refers to muscular men who also have a fair amount of fat. This is how many people describe Billy Herrington, a former adult film star, who gained notoriety after one of his videos went viral on a site called Nico Nico Douga. gachiGASM is, well, based on a photo of Herrington’s face during orgasm. The emote is used to express a sense of deep pleasure over something that happens on screen, hence the “GASM” attached to the end of the emote name.
How to use it: If something happens that makes you really, really happy, feel free to use gachiGASM.
Other notable emotes
Monkas is another member of the Pepe emote family, and one of the most important emotes on Twitch. Monkas is the word you’re most likely to see outside of Twitch chat (on Reddit or Twitter), and it’s crucial to understanding how certain communities react to it. Monkas goes back to a 4chan thread from 2011, but the illustration wasn’t used as en emote until 2016 when someone uploaded it to the FrankerFaceZ Twitch extension. But it wasn’t until February 2017, when it was dropped into Forsen’s Reddit page,, that the emote really seemed to take off. Once Forsen’s community runs with any emote or joke, all of Twitch is bound to notice, and other communities followed suit.
Monkas tends to show up often on different streams because it’s relatable. It’s used in a moment of high intense action or something that’s particularly anxiety-inducing. During IRL streams, this may happen during a face-to-face encounter or when a streamer is ranting about something. Chats for gaming streams will see this pop up during stressful gameplay moments, and the chat wants to express that feeling through a visual. Monkas is a pretty relatable emote, and it’s bound to be one you see floating around Twitch.
How to use it: If you’re feeling particularly anxious or overwhelmed, throw up a Monkas.
Poggers is another Pepe emote, but this one is sort of based on PogChamp — his frog alter ego . The emote was uploaded to FrankerFacez, and became popular in 2017. It’s especially popular in certain scenes, like Overwatch streams or League of Legends matches.
How to use it: If you’re surprised or excited.
If you guessed this is another Pepe the Frog take, you’re correct. PepeHands also became mainstream thanks to Forsen’s community, who spread it Reddit and spammed it in chat. The image, which features Pepe crying and his hands in the air, is mainly used to express sadness over something.
How to use it: If something on stream upsets you or the streamer themselves is sad.
A robot meme based on video game news publication Destructoid’s logo. The robot is mainly used when a glitch, error or computerized sound is made on stream. It’s also used, however, to poke fun at people’s robotic tendencies. It was used quite heavily during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before congress that was livestreamed on Twitch by The Washington Post. Twitch chat would spam Mr. Destructoid whenever Zuckerberg said something or reacted to a question.
How to use it: If someone is acting robotic, or a weird glitch happens.
Jebaited is an emote based on FGC icon Alex Jebailey. The icon, which shows Jebailey being taken aback by surprise, is used when someone is trying to troll or bait a streamer or other viewers in chat. It’s essentially a callout well known within the Twitch community. The term “jebaited” is often thrown around on forums like Reddit when someone is successfully trolled.
How to use it: If someone in chat or on stream is trying to bait or troll others, use the emote to call them out.
There are so many other emotes that could have made it onto this list, but consider this your essential guide to getting started. Use the comment section below to drop some of your other favorite emotes that you use on Twitch.