I came across the phrase 甘いものに目がない which roughly translates to "having a sweet tooth". Then I wondered why 目がない refers to "something that you like". Is there an explanation for why "having no eyes" means to "like something"?

  • Me and Chocolateさん were just talking about this. "Not having an eye for anything else" is how I understand it, but I'm not entirely sure.. Aug 15, 2012 at 17:23
  • @phoenixheart6 That makes some sense, but then why does it feel like "Not having an eye towards sweets"? There doesn't seem to be a word indicating "anything else" as you mentioned in your translation. Why not "甘いものばかり目がない"?
    – Chris
    Aug 15, 2012 at 17:45
  • yea, I agree, it's quite strange. I look forward to seeing if someone can shed some light on this. Aug 15, 2012 at 17:48
  • 4
    My understanding is: I have a sweet tooth → I love sweet foods so much that I do not care anything else (such as the possibility of getting fat by eating too much sweet food) → I blindly love sweet foods → 甘いものに目がない, but I do not know whether this is the real origin of the expression or not. Aug 15, 2012 at 18:34
  • @Tsuyoshi Ito: "blindly loves" certainly helps. I looked in SpaceALC to see if 目がない parallels "blindly" in other expressions. The following are not "blindly” but may give a clue to 目がない:~を見る目がない be blind to ~相手では勝ち目がない have no chance against (人)が抜け目がない there are no flies on
    – Tim
    Aug 15, 2012 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


Tsuyoshi Ito already touches on the answer. Basically, 目 is used in a lot of expressions talking about your capability see something for its true self (見極める力). It can be seen in phrases and words like: 抜け目がない、目がきく、見識、目角が強い, etc.

So, 目がない literally means you lack the "eyes" to see through things or see something for its true self. Which in turn became to mean that you like something without even thinking or using your ability to see what something really is.

  • This seems to make the most sense. Would you happen to know of any sources that talk about the subject?
    – Chris
    Aug 15, 2012 at 23:26
  • Can we apply this to 切れ目 (cut/nick) or 切れ目がない線 (unbroken or dotted line)? I think it comes from cutting something so you can see through it but that is just my supposition.
    – Tim
    Aug 15, 2012 at 23:44
  • @Chris:No, unfortunately I don't. My answer is mostly based on the definition of 目 in the dictionary.
    – Jesse Good
    Aug 17, 2012 at 0:35
  • @Tim: I think that usage of 目 refers to marking off a location or where things cross as seen in 目盛り, 碁盤の目、結び目、目が粗い、etc.
    – Jesse Good
    Aug 17, 2012 at 0:39
  • @JesseGood Thanks, I think your last statement in your post helps me understand this much better now.
    – Chris
    Aug 17, 2012 at 16:07

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