Do Scandinavians Have Green Eyes?

The general impression of the Scandinavian people is that they’re typically light-haired, light-skinned, and light-eyed.

There’s an incredible variation of eye color among Europeans, from gray to blue to green, the rarest eye color in the world — only present in 2% of the world’s population. [1]

Scandinavians do have green eyes. However, most people who have green eyes have European descent and are typically from Nordic countries like Iceland.

Regions where people have green eyes, apart from Scandinavia, include Scotland, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Britain. 

People with green eyes are found everywhere, though they’re more commonly found in Northern, Central, and Western Europe.

In addition to fully green eyes, people present a variety of pigmentation, from green rings to flecks.

This article will explore the common eye colors and features among Scandinavians and the origin of green eyes. 

Also, see Why Are Scandinavians Depressed? to learn more.

What’s the Most Common Eye Color Among Scandinavians?

Blue eyes are most common near the Baltic Sea. [2] Large percentages of Scandinavian people are light-eyed, which is seen in other Nordic countries like Iceland and Finland. [3] 

The most common eye color among Scandinavians is blue. Blue eyes and blonde hair are so common that people who don’t have either light hair or light eyes stand out in the region.

Gray, hazel, and brown are other common eye colors in the region, though the majority of Scandinavians are light-eyed.  

Scandinavians and Nordic people, in general, are known for having light hair and light eyes. Even people with brown hair and brown eyes tend to be on the lighter end of the spectrum. 

The vast majority of the Scandinavian population has blue eyes, and green-eyed children are often seen in families where one parent has blue eyes, and the other has brown eyes. 

According to a paper published in 2008, the blue eye color is associated with a common mutation, which means that the genetics for blue eyes likely came from a single ancestor. [4] 

Around the world, about 8-10% of the population has blue eyes. This percentage is considered to be of European descent by the 2008 study. 

Researchers pursued the possibility of a singular ancestor upon realizing that there was no genetic variation in the OCA2 genes among people with blue eyes. [5]

This was particularly interesting when compared to the genetic variation found among people with brown and green eyes. 

The genetic mutation in this individual that resulted in blue eyes is found in the OCA2 genes. These genes determine the degree of pigmentation in the body.

Blue eyes were caused by a spontaneous mutation that inhibited the pigmentation in the iris to a certain degree, but not completely. 

Blue eyes are not only common among Scandinavians but also among others like the Nordic, Scottish, and Irish people.

In Estonia, more than 90% of the population has blue eyes. 

Do Blue Eyes Come From Scandinavia?

As discussed earlier, blue eyes have been traced back to a single ancestor who experienced the genetic mutation leading to blue eyes.

The 2008 study that discovered this fact performed a linkage analysis on a large Danish family.

By processing genetic material from the Copenhagen Family Bank and from volunteers in Turkey and Jordan, researchers estimate that blue eyes do come from Scandinavia. 

The common ancestor with the mutation for blue eyes was likely from modern-day Denmark.

This ancestor probably existed about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and propagated the genetics for blue eyes, eventually leading to children with green eyes as well. 

Where Did Green Eyes Originate From? (PAA)

While green eyes are rare, they are most commonly found in European countries, especially in Scandinavian and Nordic countries and in countries like Scotland. 

Green eyes are believed to originate from Siberia, likely from the south Siberian Kurgan people.

Today, people with green eyes are likely to have some Celtic ancestry which includes countries like Scotland and Ireland.

Or they have Germanic ancestry, which includes Scandinavia. 

According to a study published in 2009, the Siber Kurgan people who lived during the Bronze Age were likely fair-haired and light-skinned, with blue or green eyes. [6]

This is one of the earliest DNA evidence that indicates the presence of green eyes, 

Modern instances of people with green eyes all have some ancestral connections to regions that are known for having a high concentration of blue and green eyes.

This is especially so since blue-eyed people likely had a single common ancestor. 

Interestingly, green eyes are more common in women than men, though there is no clear explanation for why these genetic mutations manifest the way they do. 

An unusual location for green eyes is the village of Liqian in China, which has a high incidence of green eyes.

While studies have determined that the DNA of the people in this village may be classified as “Caucasoid,” they still fit into the natural variations of the Chinese people. 

More likely, the people have genetic traits drawn from Siberian Kurgan ancestors who may have settled in the region, leading to their unusual green eyes. 

What Are Nordic Features? (PAA)

Over time, stereotypes develop of what the people of a region look like. The Scandinavian and Nordic people are not exempt from this. 

Nordic features, as determined by the majority of the population, include light hair, light eyes, pale skin, and being fairly tall.

The region has a high concentration of people with blue and green eyes, and the average height of men in the Nordic countries is 5’7″ (170 cm). 

As a 2006 study by Peter Frost shows, there is a lot of variation in the shades of light eyes and light hair present among the Nordic people. [7]

People may have blue, gray, or green eyes, hair that ranges from blonde to light brown, and all the shades in between. 

Of course, not everyone in the Nordic and Scandinavian countries fits into this broad profile.

The features listed here are present in the majority of the population, who are of European descent. 

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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