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"Ring a Ring o' Roses"
Roud #7925
Musical variations of Ring a Ring o' Roses, Alice Gomme, 1898.[1]
Music by Traditional
Published 1881
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

"Ring a Ring o' Roses" or "Ring Around the Rosie" is a nursery rhyme or folksong and playground singing game. It first appeared in print in 1881; but it is reported that a version was already being sung to the current tune in the 1790s. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7925.




Early attestation

Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose illustration of children playing the game (from Project Gutenberg).

The first printing of the rhyme was in Kate Greenaway’s 1881 edition of Mother Goose:

A pocket full of posies;
Hush! hush! hush! hush!
We’re all tumbled down.

The rhyme must already have been widely distributed. A novel of 1855, The Old Homestead by Ann S. Stephens, shows children playing "Ring, ring a rosy" in New York.[2] William Newell reports two versions in America at much the same time as Greenaway (1883) and says that another was known in New Bedford, Massachusetts around 1790:[3]

Ring a ring a Rosie,
A bottle full of posie,
All the girls in our town
Ring for little Josie.

There are also versions in Shropshire, collected in 1883, and a manuscript of rhymes collected in Lancashire at the same period gives three closely related versions, with the now familiar sneezing,[4] for instance:

A ring, a ring o' roses,
A pocket full o’posies-
Atch chew! atch chew!

In 1892, Alice Gomme could give twelve versions, including one resembling the current British one (see below).[5]

Current versions

Location Lyrics
In the United Kingdom [6], Republic of Ireland, South Africa, and Australia, it is usually sung: Ring a-ring o' roses,
A pocketful of posies.
a-tishoo!, a-tishoo!.
We all fall down.
In the United States [7] it is usually sung: Ring around the rosey,
A pocketful of posies.
ashes, ashes.
We all fall down.
In Canada it is usually sung: Ring around a rosey,
A pocket full of posey
Husha, husha
We all fall down!.
In Australia and in New Zealand, it is usually sung: Ring a ring a rosie
A pocketful of posies
a-tishoo!, a-tishoo!. (or a tissue, a tissue)
We all fall down.
Followed by: When our mother calls us,
We all jump up!
In India, it is usually sung: Ring-a Ring-a roses,
Pocket full of poses.
Husha, Busha.
We all fall down.
In Czech Republic it is usually sung: Kolo kolo mlýnský
Za čtyři rýnský,
Kolo se nám polámalo,
Mnoho škody nadělalo,
Udělalo bác!
In Louisiana and some parts of Southeast Texas, it is usually sung: Ring around the rosey,
Pocket full of posies.
Upstairs, downstairs.
We all fall down.
Other verses in the UK: Picking up the roses,
picking up the roses,
Atishoo!, Atishoo!
We all jump up.
Picking up the daises,
picking up the daises,
Atishoo!, Atishoo!
We all jump up.
Ashes in the water,
Ashes in the sea,
We all jump up
With a one-two-three.
The King has sent his daughter,
To fetch a pail of water.
ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo.
We all fall down.
The bird up on the steeple,
Sits high above the people.
ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo.
We all fall down.
The cows are in the meadow,
Eating buttercups,
ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo.
they all jump up.
Fishes in the water,
Fishes in the sea,
We all jump up,
With a one, two, three!
Down at the bottom of the deep blue sea,
How many fishes can you see,
With a one, a two, a three!
Sitting at the bottom of the deep blue sea,
Catching fishes, for my tea!
We all jump up,
With a one, two, three!
Other verses elsewhere[citation needed]: Cows are in the clover,
Eating buttercups,
ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo.
We all jump up![citation needed]
Cows are in the meadow,
Eating all the grass,
ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo.
Who's up last?[citation needed]
Bringing up the posies,
We all pop up![citation needed]
The cows are in the pasture,
Sleeping, Sleeping,
Lightning, Lightning.
We all jump up![citation needed]
Mammy in the teapot,
Daddy in the cup.
One, two, three
And we all jump up![citation needed]
Cows in the meadow,
eating buttercups.
thunder, lightning
We all stand up![citation needed]

Other languages

A German rhyme first printed in 1796 closely resembles "Ring a ring o’roses" in its first stanza[8] and accompanies the same actions (with sitting rather than falling as the concluding action):[9]

Wir sind der Kinder dreien,
sitzen unter'm Hollerbusch
Und machen alle Huschhuschhusch!

[sometimes spoken after the sung stanza] Setzt euch nieder.

Loosely translated this says: ‘Ring a ring a round dance. We are three children, sat under an elder bush. We all call: Hush, hush, hush! Sit down.’ The rhyme is well known in Germany with the first line ‘Ringel, Ringel, Reihe’ (as the popular collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn gave it); it has many local variants, often with ‘Husch, husch, husch’ (which in German could mean "quick, quick") in the fourth line,[10] comparable to the ‘Hush! hush! hush! hush!’ of the first printed English version. Swiss versions have the children dancing round a rosebush.[11] Other European singing games with a strong resemblance include "Roze, roze, meie" (‘Rose, rose, May’) from Holland with a similar tune to "Ring a ring o’ roses"[12] and "Gira, gira rosa" (‘Circle, circle, rose’), recorded in Venice in 1874, in which girls danced around the girl in the middle who skipped and curtsied as demanded by the verses and at the end kissed the one she liked best, so choosing her for the middle.[13]

In Japanese, it can be rendered several ways including[14]:

Japanese characters Rōmaji
バラの花輪だ 手をつなごうよ, bara no hana'wa da -- te wo tsuna'gou yo,
ポケットに 花束さして, po'ketto ni hana'taba -- sa'shite,
ハックション! ハックション! hakkushyon! hakkushyon!
みんな ころぼ。 minna korobo.

This roughly translates to There's a wreath of roses, let's hold hands, stick a bunch of flowers in your pocket, achoo! achoo!, everyone fall down.

A similar traditional game (with different rules) played in Japan is called Kagome Kagome.

In Italian it goes Giro giro tondo, casca il mondo, casca la terra; tutti giù per terra.. Roughly translated as Spin, spin in a circle, the world falls down, the ground falls down; all down on the ground.

In Greek it goes Giro giro oli, sti mesi o Manolis, heria podia sthn avli, kioli kathonte sti gi kio Manolis sto skamni. Roughly translated as Round round everyone, in the middle is Manolis, hands feet in the yard and everyone sits on the ground and Manolis on the stool. All kids form a circle and there is one kid in the middle who sits on the last verse.

In Serbian there are a number of variations of the rhyme known as "Ringe Raja" (untranslatable words of no meaning, perhaps reflecting the German first line): Ringe ringe raja, Došô čika Paja, Pa pojeo jaja. Jedno jaje muć, A mi, deco, čuč!" It is roughly translated as "Ringe ringe raja, Here came uncle Paul, And ate the eggs. One egg cracks, And we kids, squat!" Ringe ringe raja had become known worldwide from the soundtrack by Goran Bregovic to Emir Kusturica's award-winning film Underground.

In Bulgarian it goes Ринги ринги рае, наш петел играе, чужд петел го гони за кило бонбони! (Ringi ringi rae, nash petel igrae, chuzd petel go goni za kilo bonboni!) The literal translation goes like this: Ringe ringe rae, our rooster is playing, the neighbor's rooster is chasing him for a kilo of sweets! As in the case with its Serbian counterpart, the phrase "Ringi ringi rae" is most likely a reference to the German variation of the rhyme. Bulgarian children most commonly use the rhyme in counting-out games, instead of "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe".

In Polish it goes Kółko graniaste, cztero kanciaste, kółko nam się połamało, cztery grosze kosztowało, a my wszyscy BĘC!. This translates to We have the square wheel, our wheel broke, it cost four pennies, and we all fall down! The melody goes like in the English version. Children dance in a circle and at the end they all fall down.

In Brazilian Portuguese there is a similar game with the verses Roda roda roda, pé pé pé, roda roda roda, caranguejo peixe é.. This translates to Spin around spin around spin around, foot foot foot, spin around spin around spin around, crab is a fish. Upon the last verse all children fall down.

Plague interpretation

Many have associated the poem with the Great Plague of London in 1665, or with earlier outbreaks of bubonic plague in England. Interpreters of the rhyme before World War II make no mention of this;[15] by 1951, however, it seems to have become well established as an explanation for the form of the rhyme that had become standard in the United Kingdom. Peter and Iona Opie remark: "The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern English versions have given would-be origin finders the opportunity to say that the rhyme dates back to the Great Plague. A rosy rash, they allege, was a symptom of the plague, posies of herbs were carried as protection, sneezing was a final fatal symptom, and 'all fall down' was exactly what happened."[16][17] The line Ashes, Ashes in alternative versions of the rhyme is claimed to refer variously to cremation of the bodies, the burning of victims' houses, or blackening of their skin, and the theory has been adapted to be applied to other versions of the rhyme, or other plagues.[18] In its various forms, the interpretation has entered into popular culture and has been used elsewhere to make oblique reference to the plague.[19] (For 'hidden meaning' in other nursery rhymes see Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Humpty Dumpty, Jack Be Nimble, Little Jack Horner, Cock Robin, and Meanings of nursery rhymes.)

Folklore scholars regard the theory as baseless for several reasons:

  1. the late appearance of the explanation;[15]
  2. the symptoms described do not fit especially well with the Great Plague;[17][20]
  3. the great variety of forms makes it unlikely that the modern form is the most ancient one, and the words on which the interpretation are based are not found in many of the earliest records of the rhyme (see above);[18][21]
  4. European and 19th-century versions of the rhyme suggest that this "fall" was not a literal falling down, but a curtsy or other form of bending movement that was common in other dramatic singing games.[22]


  1. ^ Gomme, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, p. 108.
  2. ^ A. S. Stephens, The Old Homestead (London, 1855), 215-6 "Then the little girls began to seek their own amusements. They played 'hide and seek,' 'ring, ring a rosy,' and a thousand wild and pretty games". The first lines of the motto to the chapter may allude to the same rhyme (p. 213) "A ring – a ring of roses, Laps full of posies."
  3. ^ Opie (1951), 364; (1985), 223.
  4. ^ Opie (1985), 222.
  5. ^ Opie (1951), 364.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ The one commonly sung according to Böhme (1897), 438.
  9. ^ Böhme (1897), 438, Opie (1985), 225.
  10. ^ Böhme (1897), 438-41, Opie (1985), 227. Other rhymes for the same game have some similarity in the first line, e. g. ‘Ringel, ringel, Rosenkranz’, less in other lines - see Böhme (1897), 442-5.
  11. ^ Böhme (1897), 439, Opie (1985), 225.
  12. ^ Opie (1985), 227
  13. ^ Opie (1985), 224.
  14. ^ Japanese wikipedia
  15. ^ a b Opie (1985), 221-2.
  16. ^ Opie (1951), 365.
  17. ^ a b Compare Opie (1985), 221, where they note that neither cure nor symptoms (except for death) feature prominently in contemporary or near contemporary accounts of the plague.
  18. ^ a b Mikkelson, Barbara; Mikkelson, David P. (2007-07-12). "Ring Around the Rosie". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Snopes. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  19. ^ Opie (1985), 221, citing the use of the rhyme to headline an article on the plague village of Eyam in the Radio Times, June 7, 1973; title of "Ashes" in the New Scientist review:
  20. ^ J. Simpson and S. Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore (Oxford: OUP, 2000), 296.
  21. ^ Opie (1985), 222-3: ‘The following are the seven earliest reports known to us in Britain: … In only four of these recordings is sneezing a feature.’ The point becomes stronger when American versions are also taken into account.
  22. ^ See above, and Opie (1951), 365, citing Chants Populaire du Languedoc: 'Branle, calandre, La Fille d'Alexandre, La pêche bien mûre, Le rosier tout fleuri, Coucou toupi' — En disant 'coucou toupi', tous les enfants quie forment la ronde, s'accroupissent’.


  • F.M. Böhme, Deutsches Kinderlied und Kinderspiel (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1897), 438-41.
  • Alice B. Gomme, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland II (1908), 108-11 (cited in Opie [1985])
  • Gomme, Alice Bertha, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, London: David Nutt (1898).
  • Iona and Peter Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: OUP, 1951), 364-5.
  • Iona and Peter Opie, The Singing Game (Oxford: OUP, 1985), 220-7.


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