Tag Archives: eye twitching

Nigerian eye twitches

BACKGROUND: My informant, CI, was born in the US. Her parents are immigrants from Nigeria. The following piece is a Nigerian superstition passed down from her parents to her. CI explained that this superstition has rung true for her in many of her real-life situations.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a text conversation I had with CI about her family’s beliefs.

CI: Idk how much text you need but a Nigerian superstition is that if one of your eyes twitches for an extended period of time it means that you will soon witness something of large consequence.

Me: Is it usually something bad?

CI: It could b good or bad or either. Like so many situations I’ve had point back to this.

THOUGHTS: The thing that struck me about this belief is its pure ambivalence. There is to be no fear or joy surrounding the eye twitching because the individual will not know if the predicted event will be negative or positive. I also think it’s interesting that the individual is more of a passive party in this belief. In many other cultures, I think it’s common for people to believe that after a certain sign something may happen to them or their family. But the way this is phrased suggests that the individual will only be witness to something of significance. It adds a layer of separation between the individual and the event.

Chinese Eyelid-Twitching


E, a 22-year-old Chinese-Taiwanese female who was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is currently a senior at the University of Southern California.

Background info:

E’s first language was English, but because her parents were immigrants, she quickly learned Mandarin as well. Her parents are proud of their culture, and thus they often participated in many Taiwan and Chinese traditions, and believed many of the superstitions, as well. This is one of the superstitions E’s mother believed.


Late at night, a lot of weird conversations happen. Because E is on a project with me, we were working together at around 2:00am when we started discussing superstitions. When she knocked on wood, it brought this conversation up. The following is a transcript of the piece as told by E.

Main piece:

“One superstition that my mother would tell us was like… you know how sometimes you will get almost a pulse in your eyelids? Or it feels like your eyelid almost twitches? Well, there is this belief that if your left eye does this, it means good fortune will come to you, but if it happens in your right eye, then bad fortune will come to you… It’s sort of strange, but my mother fully believed this. Like, she would always exclaim out loud if one of her eyelids was doing the thing… She would always tell us to make sure to tell her so that she could do a prayer to prevent the bad fortune, but we never would.”


I’ve heard a similar superstition in American folklore about your ears. If your right ear burns or hurts, then someone is talking good about you, but if your left ear burns or hurts, someone is speaking ill of you. It is interesting that this superstition implies that the left side is good, and the right side is bad, when most superstitions usually imply the opposite. I believe this is because most people are right-hand dominant, and thus the stories would favor the right unconsciously. It is cool to see a story favoring the left, and I’d bet it was started in a community where people were more left-dominant.

Chinese Eye Twitching Superstition

Interview Extraction:

Informant: “There’s a belief that if your left eye is twitching, then that’s good, like good luck, and if your right eye is twitching, then that’s bad. I think in other cultures, like in India, it depends if you’re a boy or a girl, like for guys, if your left eye twitches, then its good, and if you’re a girl and your right eye twitches, then that’s good, but in China, it’s just the left eye that brings good luck if it twitches, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or boy. I think it’s because the word for ‘money’ is similar to the word for ‘left’ in Chinese, and the word for ‘disaster’ is similar to the word for ‘right.’”

Me: “Do you believe in it?”

Informant: “Me? No, I don’t. It’s just a saying. I mean, when my eye twitches, I think about it, but I don’t worry if the wrong eye twitches.

Me: When did you hear about it?

Informant: “In middle school I think. I just hear it from around I guess, and when I was older I got what it means, but when I was younger I just sort of heard it, you know? I still don’t really believe it though.


There are indeed many different superstitions regarding eye twitching around the world, and they come with different explanations or remedies, depending on what each culture believes. Eye twitching is a natural and common enough phenomenon, and yet it can be unusual enough to merit its own series of legends and superstitions, just as other bodily functions can be used ways to predict fortune or events. The eye itself is, of course, universally an important symbol, so there would presumably be much folklore surrounding every aspect of it, from twitching to shape to color. My informant was correct about Indian culture centering the auspiciousness of eye twitching around gender. In Africa, some people have different predictions of good and bad luck depending on which part of your eye twitches, while in Hawaii, eye twitching can foretell the coming of a stranger.

I found it interesting that in Chinese culture, the good and bad luck are designated based on their proximity to fortunate or unfortunate words, thus emphasizing the importance of language and word significance. This is similar to the number four being a very unlucky number in Chinese culture, again because the word for “four” is homogonous with the word for “death.”

Perhaps because my informant speaks other languages besides Chinese, the value and significance of each word in her native tongue are somewhat decreased. Therefore, although she consciously thinks about the superstition every time her eye twitches, she doesn’t necessarily feel either elated or frightened, depending on her luck. Additionally, my informant doesn’t live inChinaanymore either, so she wouldn’t be surrounded by people who believe the superstition, and this could also lessen her own belief.