Nursery rhymes are traditional poems or songs. Many of the most famous ones in the West originated in Britain, but they exist in many countries and cultures in various forms, from France to ancient Greece. They are often referred to as Mother Goose rhymes, because Mother Goose is one of the most famous nursery rhyme characters in the Western world. Nursery rhymes, as we know them today, initially appeared in English plays and, later, in books. These generally go back to the 17th and 18th centuries, although some rhymes (or iterations of rhymes) are older. The first collection of English nursery rhymes, "Tommy Thumb's Song Book," was published before the 1740s. It even had a sequel.
Are you a nursery rhymes expert? Many people grew up hearing them as children, either at home, school or camp. Some are funny, some teach lessons and some are just purely absurd. If you think you know your nursery rhymes well enough to complete them, then put your knowledge to the test with this nursery rhymes quiz.
"Hush, little baby, don't say a word/ Mama's gonna buy you a mockin'bird. If that mockin'bird don't sing/ Mama's gonna buy you a diamond _________"
"Hush Little Baby" is a popular lullaby sung to babies. It is believed to have originated in the American South. It's technically called a cumulative song based on its structure.
"Rain, rain, go away/ Come again another ______"
"Rain Rain Go Away" is an English rhyme. There's at least one version from 1687 that's very similar to the modern iteration.
"Some like it hot/ Some like it ________/ Some like it in the pot/ Nine days old"
"Pease Porridge Hot" is an old nursery rhyme that no one knows the origin of. This dish, which was usually made from boiled peas, salt and bacon, was also called pease pottage in Middle English.
"Little Bo-Peep has lost her _________, and doesn't know where to find them"
"Little Bo-Peep" is another classic. Some think it dates back to the Victorian era, while others believe it is older. "To play bo peep" originally meant, as of the 14th century, to be put in a pillory as a form of punishment.
"Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her __________ and whey"
"Little Miss Muffet" was first printed as a nursery rhyme in 1805, although, like many nursery rhymes, the origins are unknown. Curd and whey, however, are an old-fashioned way of saying cottage cheese.
"There was a farmer, had a _______, and Bingo was his name-o"
"Bingo" is a classic nursery rhyme from Scotland. No one is sure of its origins, but it's thought to be a tool to help make kids more comfortable with simple spelling.
"Cock a doodle _____! My dame has lost her shoe"
"Cock a Doodle Doo" was first published in its entirety in 1765, but lines from it were published as early as 1606 in England.
"Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the __________"
"Jack Be Nimble" is a nursery rhyme with a surprising origin. It is believed that it might be referred to the old time superstition which declared being able to jump over a candlestick a sign of luck.
"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, Catch a _______ by the toe"
"Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe" is a nursery rhyme that has been used in children's games for generations. It's thought to date back to the streets of New York City in the 19th century.
"I'm a little ________, short and stout/ Here's my handle, here's my spout"
"I'm a Little Teapot" is a relatively modern American folk song. It was written in 1939 by George Harold Sanders and Clarence Z. Kelley for a children's dance school as an easy-to-perform song and dance.
"Jack and _______ went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water"
"Jack and Jill" is a nursery rhyme that some suspect goes back to the early days of the English court. The names "Jack" and "Jill" were often used to reference "any man" or "any woman."
"The cow jumped over the moon/ The little dog laughed to see such fun/ And the _______ ran away with the spoon."
"Hey Diddle Diddle" might date back to 16th century England. A 1569 play, "A Lamentable Tragedy Mixed Ful of Pleasant Mirth, Conteyning the Life of Cambises King of Percia," mentions the phrase "hey-diddle-diddle" while also referencing a fiddle.
"Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb/ Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was ________ as snow"
"Mary Had a Little Lamb" actually has an American origin. It was first published by Sarah Josepha Hale in 1830 and may have been inspired by a true story.
"A-tisket a-tasket/ A green and yellow __________"
These are the opening lines of the classic nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," which was also part of a game played by children as early as 1938. Jazz musician, Ella Fitzgerald, went on to record a song based on the nursery rhyme.
"Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain/ So the itsy bitsy ________ climbed up the spout again"
"Itsy Bitsy Spider" dates back to the early 20th century when it was called, "The Spider Song." The words "itsy, bitsy" were originally "blooming, bloody," which was not as child-friendly.
"All the king's horses and all the king's ________/ Couldn't put Humpty together again"
Even though it is mentioned nowhere in the rhyme that "Humpty Dumpty" is an egg, and some believe that this rhyme is actually a reference to King Richard II of England, he is often depicted as an egg.
"Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man/ Bake me a _______ as fast as you can"
"Pat-a-Cake" or "Patty-Cake" is a common child's nursery rhyme. It was first seen recorded in a late 17th century play called "The Campaigners."
"Baa, baa, ________ sheep, have you any wool?"
The nursery rhyme is English in origin, but can only be definitively traced back to 1731. It has been on the wrong end of a number of controversies about possible racial and racist undertones to the rhyme.
"London ________ is falling down, my fair lady"
"London Bridge is Falling Down," also known as "My Fair Lady," might date all the way back to the Late Middle Ages, although a nearly-modern iteration was in print until the middle of the 18th century.
"The clock struck two/ The ________ said "boo"/ Hickory Dickory Dock"
"Hickory Dickory Dock" dates back to "Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book." This was the very first collection of English nursery rhymes. It was published in 1744.
"Ring around the rosies, pocket full of _________, ashes, ashes, we all fall down"
This nursery rhyme comes from an older one called "Ring a Ring O Roses," which was thought to be about the bubonic plague. People used to put flowers under their nose to hide the smell of death, hence the pocket full of posies.
"Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard, to give the poor dog a ________; When she came there, the cupboard was bare, and so the poor dog had none"
This is the beginning of the nursery rhyme "Old Mother Hubbard," which is over a dozen stanzas long. It is from the early 1800s.
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your _________ grow?"
"Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" is an old rhyme. It has been speculated that its roots lay with either the Scottish and English courts and their respective Marys; Mary, Queen of Scots or Mary I of England.
"Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it; Not a ______ was there in it; Only ribbon round it"
"Lucy Locket" is a popular English nursery rhyme. It dates back to the early 19th century and references the pockets that women of the time used. Instead of pockets being sewn into their skirts, they were worn on a string around the waist, and skirts had slits in the side to access the pockets.
"One, two, buckle my shoe/ Three, four, shut the ________/ Five, six, pick up sticks/ Seven, eight, lay them straight"
"One Two Buckle My Shoe" is a counting rhyme that goes to 20. Its purpose is to help young children learn to count to 20. It seems to have originated from the late 18th century in Massachusetts.
"Little boy blue come blow your horn/ The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the ________"
"Little Boy Blue" was first published in the 1744 nursery rhyme collection "Tommy Thumb's Little Song Book." It probably dates back farther than this, however.
"Here we go round the mulberry ________ so early in the morning"
"Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" has a few names and variations, including "This is the Way" and "Mulberry Bush." It is often used as part of a children's' game. It was first recorded by James Orchard Halliwell.
"It's raining; it's pouring/ The old _________ is snoring"
"It's Raining, It's Pouring" has uncertain American origins. Part of it can be traced back to a rhyme published in 1912, but it wasn't recorded as a song in its modern iteration until 1939.
"Hot cross buns/ Hot cross buns/ One a ______, two a penny/ Hot cross buns"
"Hot Cross Buns" was originally a street cry, or way of hawking one's wares, before it was standardized as an English nursery rhyme. It was usually shouted around the end of Lent, because that's when people traditionally ate hot cross buns.
"Jack Sprat could eat no _______/ His wife could eat no lean"
There are several theories as to the origin of the "Jack Sprat" nursery rhyme. Some say it makes fun of King Charles I of England and his wife, Henrietta.
"Morning bells are ringing/ Morning bells are __________. Ding, dang, dong! Ding, dang, dong!"
"Frere Jaques" is a popular nursery rhyme around the world. It is most popular in its original French version, even though it has been translated into many languages, including the English version, "Brother John."
"Oh there's none so rare, as can compare, with King Cole and his _______ three"
No one is sure if the king referenced in "Old King Cole" is real or not. Some theorize it refers to the legendary Welsh King, Coel Hen.
"Five little speckled frogs sat on a speckled _______"
This is the beginning of the rhyme and camp song, "Five Little Speckled Frogs." In some variations, more and more frogs jump off the log. This American rhyme is also often sung with matching hand motions.
"Up and down the city road/ In and out the eagle/ That’s the way the money goes/ _______! goes the weasel"
This tune and rhyme evolved from a mid-19th century English dance. Today it is one of the most well-known nursery rhymes.
"One, two, three, four, five/ Once I caught a ______ alive."
"One, Two, Three, Four, Five" is an old counting rhyme. It was first recorded in "Mother Goose's Melody" in 1765.
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