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What does the blue eye actually mean?

What does the blue eye actually mean?

The blue eye is often associated with beauty, mystery, and allure. But what does this eye color actually signify and what causes eyes to be blue? Here we explore the meaning, genetics, and myths around blue eyes.

What Causes Blue Eyes?

Blue eyes are caused by a lack of pigment in the iris. The colored part of the eye contains pigments called melanin. Brown eyes contain a lot of melanin, while blue eyes contain very little of this pigment.

The lack of melanin causes the light to scatter and reflect off the collagen fibers in the iris, making the eyes appear blue. Blue eyes contain low levels of melanin in the anterior border layer of the iris, but still contain melanin in the posterior epithelium layer.

Melanin and Eye Color

Melanin comes in two forms: eumelanin which is brown/black, and pheomelanin which is red/yellow. People with brown or black eyes have a lot of eumelanin in their irises. Green or hazel eyes contain a moderate amount of melanin, while blue eyes contain very little melanin.

The amount of melanin present is determined by genetics. The main gene that controls eye color is OCA2, which codes for the protein that produces melanin. Variants of this gene reduce the production of melanin, leading to blue eyes.

Eye Color Melanin Content
Brown High eumelanin
Hazel/Green Moderate eumelanin
Blue Low eumelanin

Blue Eyes and Genetics

Since blue eyes are recessive, both parents must carry the gene mutation for a child to have blue eyes. However, even two blue eyed parents can have a brown eyed child. The OCA2 gene is only partially responsible for eye color and other modifier genes also influence pigmentation.

Several genes may interact to influence eye color, which explains the range in shades of blues and greens. The genetic determinants of eye color seem to be quite complex, with different genetic components interacting to produce a certain hue.

Geographic Distribution of Blue Eyes

Blue eyes are most common in people of Northern European ancestry. Countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, such as Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Germany have high percentages of blue-eyed people.

This geographic distribution reflects the fact that blue eyes spread and became common as a genetic mutation in the Black Sea region 6,000-10,000 years ago during the Neolithic era. It then spread to Europe through the migrations of early Indo-European populations.

Populations in areas including the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Central/South America have low frequencies of blue eyes. Melanin content is higher in these groups as an evolutionary adaptation to sun exposure.

The Significance and Meaning of Blue Eyes

So what does it mean to have blue eyes beyond genetics? Throughout history and across cultures, blue eyes have been associated with many symbolic meanings.


Blue eyes are commonly seen as an indicator of youthfulness since infants often have lighter eye colors that darken with age. Their bright blue hue is associated with vitality and freshness.


In Western culture, blue eyes are viewed as attractive and feminine. Models and celebrities with blue eyes, such as Carrie Fisher, Kate Moss, and Megan Fox, reinforce this association between blue eyes and ideal beauty.


Since only 8% of the global population has blue eyes, they are seen as unique and rare. Their unconventional nature enhances their mystique and desirability.


Some believe that since blue eyes lack protective pigment, they allow in more light and make people more sensitive to their environments. This manifests as physical light sensitivity and perceived emotional sensitivity.


The icy, light shade of blue eyes is believed to reflect internal coldness or aloofness. Villains in literature and film often have piercing blue eyes that indicate danger, cunning, or lack of empathy.

However, many view this villain stereotype as unjust, arguing that blue eyes signal virtue, kindness, and innocence. Ultimately eye color likely has no true bearing on personality traits.

Interesting Facts About Blue Eyes

Beyond the significance and genetics of blue eyes, here are some fun facts about this unique eye color:

– Blue eyes may have better low light vision but worse vision in bright sunlight. The lack of pigment and excess light causes issues with glare.

– All babies are born with blue eyes since pigment in the iris is not developed at birth. Their final eye color emerges around age 3.

– People with lighter eye colors are more likely to be left-handed. The genes for handedness and eye color both reside on the X chromosome.

– Blue eyes are sensitive to changes in lighting and will appear to change shades. They often look greener in summer and grayer in winter.

– The first known person to have blue eyes lived near the Black Sea around 6,000 BC according to DNA analysis.

– Iceland has the highest percentage of blue-eyed people at 89%. In contrast, less than 1% of people native to Sub-Saharan Africa have blue eyes.

The Origins and History of Blue Eyes

The blue eye color did not always exist in human populations. Here is an overview of how blue eyes developed over time:

Origin of the Blue Eye Mutation

– The genetic switch for blue eyes originated around the Black Sea region 6,000-10,000 years ago. A single mutation affecting OCA2 turned off melanin production.

– This mutation may have occurred more than once. Most blue-eyed people share a common ancestor dating back ~6,000 years.

Spread from the Steppe Region

– Blue eyes became common during the Neolithic era as agricultural populations expanded from the Near East into Europe. These groups originated from the Yamnaya culture of the Eurasian steppe.

– Blue eyes likely spread with Indo-European languages and culture as Yamnaya descendants migrated westward and northward across Europe.

Rise to High Frequency in Northern Europe

– Selection pressures caused blue eyes to become very common in Scandinavian and Baltic populations. Potential advantages included vitamin D absorption for weak sunlight.

– Vikings and Anglo-Saxons later spread the trait around Northern and Western Europe. It reached near fixation frequencies in Scandinavia.

– Blue eyes have declined slightly in prevalence in recent generations due to immigration and mixing of European groups. But they remain iconic for Nordic peoples.


While the genetics behind blue eyes are now well understood, they still captivate popular imagination. These icy hues hold many symbolic meanings about beauty, sensitivity, and allure. But ultimately one’s eye color does not define personality or character. The blue eye remains mystical and prized in society, but it does not fully determine who we are inside.