Why Four-Leaf Clovers Are Considered Lucky (2024)

Updated: Mar. 31, 2024

We all know carrying a four-leaf clover will bring you good fortune, but the history of this lucky symbol may surprise you

Whether you’re a fan of the Boston Celtics or you have a countdown to St. Patrick’s Day on your calendar, you’re definitely aware of the shamrock (aka the three-leafed clover) and all it represents: Ireland, Celtic heritage and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day traditions. But when it comes to the shamrock’s famously lucky relative, the four-leaf clover, its meaning gets more complicated.

So, before St. Paddy’s Dayon March 17, learn about the true four-leaf-clover meaning, so you can welcome good fortune—not only on the big day, but throughout the rest of the year too!

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About the experts

  • Mike Cronin is the academic director of Boston College Ireland. He received his Doctor of Philosophy at Oxford University and has published various works on Irish history.
  • Marion R. Casey is a historian on the faculty of New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House and the author of The Green Space: The Transformation of the Irish Image.

Why is the four-leaf clover considered lucky?

Luck doesn’t only come from a good St. Patrick’s Day quote! One legend has it that the luck factor comes from Eve herself. As Adam and Eve were leaving the Garden of Eden, Eve is said to have plucked a single four-leafed clover as a souvenir of paradise, and this religious connection has led to them being considered lucky ever since. Four-leaf clovers were also been seen in fables. “Children are recorded in folklore as carrying them in the hope that they could see fairies, and more generally, people carried them in a pre-modern world because they believed it would bring them luck and ward off illness,” says Mike Cronin, the academic director of Boston College Ireland.

However, the belief that four-leaf clovers are lucky may have already existed among the Celtic peoples, probably because of the proliferation of clovers in Ireland and the rarity of finding one with four leaves. Many Celtic traditions were blended with the new religion over the years, and the importance of the clover was one of them. The four-leaf-clover meaning became intertwined with Christianity, so the first three leaves came to represent faith, hope and love, and the fourth leaf, God’s grace or luck.

How are clovers and shamrocks connected to Ireland?

Why Four-Leaf Clovers Are Considered Lucky (1)Luis M/getty images

“In the 18th century, the cult of St. Patrick associated the three-leaf shamrock (which is a clover) with a legend that he used to teach the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one God),” says Marion R. Casey, a historian on the faculty of New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House.

Other than the fact that they’re green and everywhere, the shamrock has such symbolism that they were even recorded as being worn by Irish people as early as the 1720s. “The shamrock was used as a symbol by Irish militia groups in the 1700s, and after the Act of Union, which made Ireland formally part of the United Kingdom in 1800, the shamrock appeared beside the Scottish thistle and the English rose to symbolize the unity of the three kingdoms,” Casey says.

Why do four-leaf clovers exist?

A genetic study at the University of Georgia (UGA) concluded that any more than three leaves on a clover are due to a genetic mutation in the genome of the common clover species, white clover (or Trifolium repens).

How rare are four-leaf clovers?

Why Four-Leaf Clovers Are Considered Lucky (2)DEV IMAGES/Getty Images

According to Casey, four-leaf clovers “are as rare as the five-leaf clover, which is considered even luckier. The three-leaf clover is recognized as the genuine shamrock, and that is why it is emblazoned on the tails of Aer Lingus jets, the Irish national airline.”

Although it has been said that four-leaf clovers are exceedingly rare—as few as one in 10,000—an independent study carried out by Swiss researchers looked at 5.7 million clovers and found that the likelihood of finding one four-leaf clover was one in 5,076 three-leafed ones. Much better odds! Researchers at UGA also learned that you’re likely to see four-leaf clovers during the warmer months. And if you find one, there’s a higher chance of finding another one in the same area.

Are shamrocks and clovers the same thing?

Yes and no! Shamrocks are a type of clover. Shamrock, which comes from the Old Irish word seamróg, means “little clover” and describes a three-leaf clover. Since a four-leaf clover has four leaves, it is not considered a shamrock. That small lucky leaf makes all the difference!

Can you find clovers with more than four leaves?

Yes, you can find clovers with more than just four leaves! In fact, the Guinness World Record for the most leaves found on a clover is 56.

How do I find a four-leaf clover?

Find your very own four-leafed good-luck charm on St. Patrick’s day and beyond with the tips below:

  • Find a patch of clover. According to Scientific American, “a typical clover field contains about 200 clovers per 60 square centimeters.” To increase your chances of finding a four-leaf clover, they suggest scanning around 1.2 square meters of clovers—which works out to roughly 10,000 clover leaves.
  • Instead of scanning each clover individually, look for “something that deviates from the normal pattern.” Once you find it, go in for closer observation.
  • Search while the sun is still up because clovers tend to go to sleep early, folding up their leaves about an hour before sunset.
  • Once you’ve found a likely, well-lit spot, it’s almost like a magic-eye painting: Relax your eyes, and scan for the correct shape. The good news is that because it’s a genetic mutation, one four-leaf clover means another usually isn’t far away, so you might double your luck.

Sources:

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Why Four-Leaf Clovers Are Considered Lucky (2024)

FAQs

Why Four-Leaf Clovers Are Considered Lucky? ›

According to Parade.com, Four-leaf clovers are considered lucky for their rarity. In the Middle Ages, it was believed by some Celtic groups that wielding a four-leaf clover would help you see fairies, as well as to ward off evil spirits and grant the holder good luck.

Why is a four-leaf clover considered lucky? ›

The Druids (Celtic priests), in the early days of Ireland, believed that when they carried a three-leaf clover or shamrock, they could see evil spirits coming and have a chance to escape in time. Four-leaf clovers were Celtic charms, presumed to offer magical protection and ward off bad luck.

What does the four-leaf clover mean spiritually? ›

The four-leaved clover has been a symbol of good luck and fortune for centuries, but how did it come to be? The belief in the luckiness of the four-leaved clover can be traced back to ancient Druids who believed that it had mystical powers and could ward off evil spirits.

What is the benefit of the four-leaf clover? ›

Four-Leaf Clover Plant Symbolic Of Good Luck:

It is commonly carried as a charm in the hopes of finding future life partners. In English folklore, dreaming of clovers represents a happy marriage. The clover also represents wealth, fame, good health, and true love, with each leaf symbolizing faith, hope, love, and luck.

What does each leaf mean in 🍀? ›

According to pagan legends, each leaf has a meaning. The first would bring fame, the second leaf would bring us wealth, the third love, and the fourth health. But in the Christian and Catholic tradition each leaf corresponds rather to a virtue.

What does 🍀 mean in love? ›

are: loyalty, love, luck and hope for the last. 🍀 Wear this lovely multiway (can be worn may ways)

What leaf brings good luck? ›

The four-leaf clover is a rare variation of the common three-leaf clover that has four leaflets instead of three. According to traditional sayings, such clovers bring good luck, although it is not clear when or how this idea began.

Is the four-leaf clover in the Bible? ›

Throughout the centuries we have identified it with good luck and the legend of the four-leaf clover dates back to Biblical years. Subsequent to the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden; Eve took a four-leaf clover with her to remember the splendor and majesty of paradise.

What does it mean when someone says you are my four-leaf clover? ›

The leaves of four-leaf clovers are said to stand for faith, hope, love, and luck. It's often said that Ireland is home to more four-leaf clovers than any other place, giving meaning to the phrase “the luck of the Irish.”

What is the meaning of ☘? ›

The Shamrock emoji ☘️ depicts a three-leafed sprig of the shamrock plant. As the shamrock is the national emblem of Ireland, the Shamrock emoji ☘️ is widely used in association with Irish culture, identity, and heritage, especially on St. Patrick's day each year on March 17.

Should I keep a four-leaf clover? ›

Four leaf clovers are a sign of good luck for some, but won't last very long if they're left sitting out in the open. If you want to hold onto a four leaf clover to keep yourself lucky, you'll need to press it to remove the moisture before preserving it.

What's more lucky 3 or 4 leaf clover? ›

A fourth leaf is where we get the luck from. The four-leafed clover, or “lucky clover”, is an uncommon variation of the three-leafed clover, and widely considered to be a symbol of good luck. Because they are a mutation, they are rare, and not found in the same abundance as the shamrock, and thus, considered lucky.

Why is clover so important? ›

Since clover helps maintain soil moisture and suppresses certain other weeds, clover lawns require less water and herbicide: all good news for the environment. Clover nourishes healthier livestock and keeps pollinators busy and thriving, which sustains our ecosystems.

What is the spiritual meaning of the 4 leaf clover? ›

A four-leaf clover represents more than just good luck for its rarity. Aside from being regarded as lucky, four-leaf clovers are supposed to represent symbols of faith, love, hope, and good fortune. Unlike shamrocks, which have three leaves, four-leaf clovers are not religious emblems, particularly in Ireland.

What does 4 leaf symbolize? ›

Each of the four leaves is traditionally associated with hope, faith, love, and luck. This symbolism imbues the clover with a sense of magic and mystery, elevating it from a simple plant to a cherished emblem of positive values and aspirations.

How rare is a 🍀? ›

According to The Weather Network, a four-leaf clover is rare, and difficult to find. A quick Google search said the odds are 1 in 10,000, but a 2017 study says chances are much better, with a 1 in 5,000 chance.

What does the superstition four-leaf clover mean? ›

According to the legend, the leaves of a four-leaf clover represent hope, faith, love, and a fourth for good luck. A common belief during the Middle Ages was if someone carried a four-leaf clover, they would have the ability to see fairies.

How rare is a four-leaf clover? ›

According to The Weather Network, a four-leaf clover is rare, and difficult to find. A quick Google search said the odds are 1 in 10,000, but a 2017 study says chances are much better, with a 1 in 5,000 chance. Inside Science also reported 1 in 10,000 odds.

What are the odds of finding a lucky four-leaf clover? ›

The probability of finding a four-leaf clover is 1-in-10,000. This defines the number of times that the event occurs (four-leaf clover) out of a total number of opportunities (all white clovers).

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