Why do people wish on eyelashes?

Close-up of eyelash
If you want to wish on an eyelash, wait for it to fall out -- they protect your eyes from dust and debris.
Tetra Images/Getty Images

What happens when you lose an eyelash? Do you brush the errant lash away without regard? Or does the discovery mean something more? For many, finding a stray eyelash is an opportunity to make a wish.

A 6-year-old girl may wish on every loose lash she finds, but probably doesn't really expect she'll wake up the next morning to find a pony stationed outside. Her mother, even though she's well into her 30s, wishes on loose eyelashes, too. She doesn't really believe that her wish will result in a work promotion or lottery jackpot, but figures an occasional try can't hurt. After all, she's been making wishes on eyelashes as long as she can remember, and deep down, she thinks making wishes wards off bad luck.


Much like wishing upon a star, tugging on a wishbone or other wish-related rituals, a loose eyelash could be a direct route to your deepest desire -- if you believe, that is.

The superstition that compels us to wish on otherwise random objects dates back at least a couple of centuries. Several versions of eyelash wishing existed in 18th century Britain and Ireland. For example, folklore recorded in Shropshire, England, instructs that if "an eyelash comes out, put it on the back of the hand, wish, and throw it over the shoulder. If it leaves the hand, the wish will come true." Another version, this one passed among Cornish schoolgirls, reports a loose eyelash must be placed on the tip of the nose or the back of the hand. If it is successfully blown off the surface, the accompanying wish will materialize [sources: Simpson, Roud].

While the origins -- and success rates -- of wishing on eyelashes are historically murky, one thing is clear: It doesn't count if you pull out an eyelash and try to make a wish. In fact, it's not a good idea to pull out your lashes under any circumstances. An eyelash can take up to eight weeks to grow back [source: Vision Eye Institute].

What's more, your eyelashes function as gatekeepers -- fine hairs used to protect the eyes from dust, sand and other debris. Now that's something to wish for.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Roud, Steve. "The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland." 2006. (Dec. 20, 2014) http://books.google.com/books?id=1Mc4qPiICvcC&pg=PT645&dq=wishing+eyelash&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6NhgVILcF_eKsQSayoLIAw&ved=0CDkQ6wEwAQ#v=onepage&q=wishing%20eyelash&f=false
  • Simpson, Jacqueline. "A Dictionary of English Folklore." 2000. (Dec. 20, 2014) http://books.google.com/books?id=iTcdvd1iRXsC&pg=PT319&dq=wishing+eyelash&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6NhgVILcF_eKsQSayoLIAw&ved=0CD8Q6wEwAg#v=onepage&q=wishing%20eyelash&f=false
  • Vision Eye Institute. "The Role of the Eyelashes." (Dec. 20, 2014) http://www.visioneyeinstitute.com.au/eyelashes/