Panda Eyes – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to describe someone that looks tired? You could say they have ‘panda eyes’ to describe their appearance. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The term 'panda eyes' has with dual meanings. The first meaning is to refer to someone that looks tired or like they’ve been out drinking all night and have a severe hangover. Their eyes appear sunken and dark, and they look like they could use some sleep.

The second use of the term is to describe a makeup trend involving smudging mascara around the eyes to create an effect that looks like a panda. The makeup can form a single band across the eyes, or two patches, appearing like a panda.

Example Usage

“I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, and I had the worst case of panda eyes ever. It took me an extra 15-minutes to do my makeup just to cover everything up properly.”

“Did you have a hard night, son? Those panda eyes tell the story, and it doesn’t look like it has a happy ending.”

“I’m never partying like that again, ever. I have a beating headache this morning, panda eyes, and my mouth is so dry it feels like sandpaper.”

“I haven’t slept much in the last three days. This insomnia is killing me. I have panda eyes, and everyone thinks I’ve been out partying, but I’m just so tired.”


The expression 'panda eyes' originates from the 1960s. No official evidence supports the connection between 'panda eye' and looking tired or hungover. However, the phrase experienced an increase in use over the coming decades.

Today, panda eyes are a common reference to someone that looks hungover or tired. The expression gets its meaning from the dark patches of fur covering the panda's eyes. There is no evidence pointing to the first use of the phrase in print and no evidence suggesting anyone coined the term.

As a result, language experts are at a loss to explain the origin of 'panda eyes' and how the expression entered the English language. However, it's a common saying, and you probably hear it all the time when people look tired.

Phrases Similar to Panda Eyes

  • Tired.
  • Finished.
  • Dead eyes.
  • Zombified.

Phrases Opposite to Panda Eyes

  • Bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Panda eyes.

Ways People May Say Panda Eyes Incorrectly

People may use ‘panda eyes’ to describe someone with small eyes or eyes that are close together. However, this is not the correct use of the expression. Pandas usually have dark rings of fur around their eyes, giving the animal the impression of sunken eyes and a tired look.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Panda Eyes

You can use ‘panda eyes’ when you're describing someone with dark rings around their eyes. They may look like they spent the night partying and had too much to drink. Or maybe they’re dealing with a bad case of insomnia. Panda eyes are a sign that a person feels tired and just wants to laze around and do nothing to recover from their current state.

You can use ‘panda eyes’ in social and professional situations where you want to tell someone they look tired. It’s not an offensive statement, and you can use it when describing the appearance of men, women, and children. You can also use ‘panda eyes’ when referring to a woman that smudges mascara under her eyes to create a specific look.

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