On any given day throughout the year – but especially on Valentine’s Day! – you may give or receive the look of love from your significant other; but what does this saying actually mean?
There are lots of sayings relating to the eyes. Here are the origins behind some of our favourite eye idioms and popular eye quotes.
1. The Look of Love
This phrase was made popular in a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and performed by Dusty Springfield in 1967. It featured in the James Bond movie Casino Royale that came out in 1967. Since then, the song has been covered by many other artists.
So what does the look of love mean?
In this snippet from the song, Dusty sings how she can be sure of her lover’s feelings by the depth of emotion she reads in their eyes:
“The look of love
Is in your eyes
The look your smile can’t disguise
The look of love
Is saying so much more than just words could ever say
And what my heart has heard,
Well, it takes my breath away.” —Dusty Springfield
According to Psychology Today, eyes have long since been thought of as mirrors of our emotional state. Therefore we can often sense other people’s feelings towards us through their eyes.
Find out how you can read emotion in your partner’s eyes.
2. A Sight for Sore Eyes
This refers to spotting someone or something that you are very pleased to see.
It can be argued that this saying uses the metaphor of the eyes receiving physical relief – like a soothing ointment – at the sight of something very welcome.
The origin of the phrase was first recorded by Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift, who included the saying in his book, A complete collection of genteel and ingenious conversation published in 1738:
“The Sight of you is good for sore Eyes.”
As the title suggests, he was noting snippets of conversation in use at the time, so it’s likely that this phrase was already in use for some time.
3. You Are the Apple of My Eye
This figure of speech is a metaphor for someone or something that is most precious to another, for example, a daughter who is the apple of her father’s eye. Whatever or whomever you cherish above all others is the apple of your eye.
We find several references to the apple of the eye in the Bible, such as:
Proverbs 7:2: “Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye“.
The origin of the saying most likely began as an anatomical term to refer to the darker, middle section of someone’s eye, which is known as the pupil.
The term appears in many works of literature, such as William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream published in 1590. In this play, a fairy character drops a love potion into the ‘apple’ of a young man’s eye.
4. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
If someone says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder it means that they have a different opinion on what is attractive.
Beauty is subjective; what some people find beautiful can vary to another. For example:
“I can’t believe he bought that ugly jacket. And he loves it too! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
It is believed that this idiom originated in Greek in the 3rd century BC. It has been used several times in literature, for example in Margaret Wolfe Hungerford’s 1878 novel, Molly Bawn.
5. The Eyes are the Window to the Soul
This phrase is attributed to St. Augustine, a philosopher who lived in the 4th century, who famously called the eyes “the windows to the soul”.
It’s interpreted to mean that there is no thought or feeling that an expression within the eyes does not reveal.
6. Some Kisses are Given With the Eye
This quote was by Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean poet, educator, diplomat, and feminist. She was best known for her lyric poetry and was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945.
The meaning of the phrase is similar to ‘the look of love’ in the sense that you can often read someone’s depth of feelings towards you by the look in their eyes. You often do not need to be kissed by someone to know that they love you; you can tell how they feel about you by the look that they give you.
Receiving a ‘loving’ look from someone you care about makes you feel happy and cared for.