Pop Goes the Weasel: Original Lyrics & Meaning Explained

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Pop Goes the Weasel – Lyrics

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Every night when I go out,
The monkey’s on the table.
Take a stick and knock it off,
Pop! goes the weasel.

A penny for a ball of thread,
Another for a needle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

I’ve no time to plead and pine,
I’ve no time to wheedle.
Kiss me quick and then I’m gone
Pop! goes the weasel.

Pop Goes the Weasel

Pop Goes the Weasel is one of those classic nursery rhymes that gets stuck in your head after just one listen. I still find myself absentmindedly humming it decades later! With its playful lyrics and catchy melody, it’s no wonder this tune has stood the test of time.


While the origins of Pop Goes the Weasel are a bit murky, it’s been capturing the imaginations of children since the mid-19th century. Today, it remains one of the most beloved and recognizable kids’ songs. In this post, we’ll take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, exploring the meaning behind the cryptic lyrics and sharing some fun facts about this whimsical rhyme. Grab the kiddos and let’s dive in!

Origins and Meaning

Now I don’t mind admitting – the lyrics to Pop Goes the Weasel have always left me scratching my head! With references to monkeys, eagles, and weasels (oh my!), it’s chock full of nonsense. But behind the silly words lies some hidden history.

The origins of Pop Goes the Weasel can be traced back to England’s cockney culture in the 1850s. Cockney rhyming slang was commonly used by working-class Londoners, replacing common words with whimsical rhyming phrases. The lyrics mimicked the lingo of the streets, giving a playful nod to the antics of cockney life.

Let’s break down some of the key verses:

Half a pound of tuppenny rice – Tuppenny rice refers to cheap staple foods like rice and treacle (molasses). This line alludes to the meager rations of the working poor.

That’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel – “Pop goes the weasel” was slang for pawning one’s coat to get money for food and drink. The weasel is the coat which “pops” or is pawned.

Take a stick and knock it off – “Knock it off” meant to drink or eat hurriedly.

Up and down the City Road, In and out the Eagle – The Eagle refers to a pub on City Road in London that was frequented by the working classes.

So the song offers a glimpse into everyday cockney life – stretching a penny by pawning belongings, hurrying to finish meals, and popping into the local pub for entertainment.

Over time, the meaning behind the cryptic words was lost. But the tune lived on, capturing the imagination of children with its playful lyrics and rollicking melody. It became a nursery rhyme and eventually hopped across the pond to the United States.

The song became popular in America in the 1850s, particularly in the Northeast. The lyrics evolved, replacing some cockney slang with more familiar phrases like “needle” and “thread”. It was frequently used as a marching song, filling the air at both Union and Confederate rallies during the Civil War.

So this nonsense rhyme has quite a rich history! While the lyrics may seem nonsensical to us today, they provide a glimpse into the lives of past generations. The lighthearted tune has endured over centuries and continents, proving that sometimes the simplest songs have the most staying power.

Fun Facts

  • The song is sometimes sung as “All around the cobbler’s bench, the monkey chased the weasel.” This version is associated with the cobbler’s trade, but the original lyrics make no reference to cobblers.
  • The tune originated as a folk dance, likely accompanied by a fiddle. The song title comes from the popping sound as the knee bend and rise during the dance.
  • In England, a “weasel” was also slang for a coat. Legend has it that cockney tailors made the jackets out of weasel fur! When funds were low, the coat would “pop” off to the pawn shop.
  • “Pop Goes the Weasel” was used as a Morris dance tune. English Morris dancing troupes would perform with sticks or handkerchiefs to the rhythm of the song.
  • The Eagle pub namechecked in the lyrics still exists! You can hoist a pint at The Eagle on City Road in the heart of London’s old cockney neighborhood.


Well, who knew such a simple nursery rhyme had such a rich backstory? It just goes to show you that even playful throwaway ditties can contain hidden depth. The longevity of “Pop Goes the Weasel” is a testament to the enduring appeal of catchy melodies and nonsense humor.

For children, the silly lyrics and lively rhythm make it an absolute delight to sing and dance along to. As adults, it’s fun to uncover the history behind the cryptic words, shining a light on the lives of past generations. Shared across decades and continents, “Pop Goes the Weasel” remains a timeless piece of our cultural heritage.

So gather round and teach it to the little ones in your life. They’ll have as much fun singing it as you did as a child. And one day, they’ll be able to pass it on to their own kids, keeping this whimsical rhyme alive for generations to come. What are your favorite memories of singing or listening to “Pop Goes the Weasel”? Share them in the comments below!

And for more nostalgic kids’ songs from over the years, be sure to check out my previous post: https://www.thecornydad.com/50-fun-and-educational-kiddie-songs-with-lyrics/

Hey there! I'm Allen, but you can call me "The Corny Dad" from Canada. I have a wife and four kiddos. Yep, one's full grown, but they'll always be my babies. When I'm not doing something with my family or playing video games, I'm here, jotting down my bits of wisdom on this blog. From the fun stuff to the parenting chaos, I cover it all. Believe me, with the right attitude, parenting's a smoother ride and I'm here to help.

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