Aquatic dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a major reservoir of reduced organic carbon and has a significant influence on heterotrophic biological productivity and water quality in marine and freshwater environments. Although the forms and transformations of DOM in temperate aquatic and soil environments have been studied extensively, this is not the case for glacial environments. In this study, fluorescent excitation–emission matrices (EEMs), parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) and cluster analysis were used to characterize the fluorescing components of DOM in ice and water samples from supraglacial, englacial, subglacial and proglacial environments of seven glaciers in the Canadian Arctic, Norway and Antarctica. At least five significant fluorescent DOM fractions were identified, which accounted for 98.2% of the variance in the dataset. These included four protein-like components and one humic-like component. The predominantly proteinaceous character of DOM from these glaciers is very different from the more humic character of DOM described previously from lacustrine, fluvial, estuarine and marine environments. DOM from the sampled glaciers is broadly similar in character despite their geographically distinct locations, different thermal regimes and inter- and intra-site differences in potential organic matter sources. Glacier ice samples had a relatively low ratio of humic-like :protein-like fluorescence while meltwater samples had a higher ratio.