Ring Around the Rosy: Nursery Rhyme Lyrics & History

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Ring Around the Rosy Lyrics

Ring around the rosy
A pocket full of posies
“Ashes, Ashes”
We all fall down
Ring around the rosy
A pocket full of posies
“Ashes, Ashes”

Ring Around the Rosy

Some days, it seems like nursery rhymes are a big part of my daily routine. Singing silly songs with my kids is one of my favorite ways to bond with them and get their wiggles out. Simple tunes like “Ring Around the Rosy” make playtime fun while helping develop memory and language skills. This catchy rhyme has origins dating back centuries with possible connections to the Black Plague. Spooky! Let’s unravel the mystery behind this playground classic.

Origins and Meaning

While the exact origins of “Ring Around the Rosy” are uncertain, most historians trace it back to 17th century Europe. Some believe the “ring around the rosy” refers to the reddish rash that developed on plague victims. The “pocket full of posies” may reference the herbs people carried to ward off disease and cover up the smell of infection. Sadly, the “ashes, ashes” chorus likely describes the burning of plague victims’ corpses. The final line, “we all fall down,” seems to depict people literally falling down dead from the plague.

However, other theories question this interpretation. Skeptics point out the song first appeared in print in the late 1800s, centuries after the Black Plague epidemic. The term “rosie” might simply refer to the circular dance around a rose bush or other flower. The falling down at the end could just mean kids collapsing from dizziness! We may never know the exact symbolic meaning behind each line. But this catchy tune clearly has some rather dark origins intertwined with themes of sickness and death.

What I find remarkable is how a rhyme about such morbid topics has endured over centuries and remains a playground favorite today. As a father, I prefer to emphasize the song’s lighter meanings when I sing it with my daughters. We have fun racing around our yard in circles holding hands until we stumble into a giggling heap. The upbeat melody and repetitive nature make it perfect for little ones still mastering language skills. While its origins may be grim, the song has clearly evolved into a harmless, wholesome children’s rhyme.

Fun Facts

  • The first printed version of “Ring Around the Rosy” appeared in Kate Greenaway’s 1881 book Mother Goose. However, it was likely sung orally for many decades before being officially published.
  • Though the Black Plague explanation is widely cited, other theories trace the song back to pagan rituals, Celtic folklore, or the Great Fire of London in 1666. Its exact origins remain shrouded in mystery!
  • Similar nursery rhymes and singing games exist across Europe, including “Ring o’ Ring o’ Roses” in England and “Ringelringelreihen” in Germany. Clearly this catchy tune has universal appeal!
  • The line “ashes, ashes” is sometimes said as “a-tishoo, a-tishoo” in keeping with the sneezing sounds of plague symptoms. My girls think this silly variant is hilarious!
  • While associated with disease and death historically, the song has evolved into a playful children’s rhyme over time, losing its macabre associations.


In the end, the exact origins of “Ring Around the Rosy” may remain a riddle wrapped in mystery. But one thing’s for certain – its catchy beat and nonsensical lyrics have entertained countless children for generations. As a busy father of four munchkins under five, I’m just happy to have a fun activity that gets my girls moving and laughing. The song has become a treasured family tradition, creating joyful memories each time we “fall down” in a fit of giggles. Music is truly one of childhood’s great gifts.

What are your favorite memories of singing “Ring Around the Rosy” as a child? Do you still enjoy chanting this timeless tune with your own kids today? I’d love to hear your stories! And for more nostalgic nursery rhymes to share with the little ones in your life, be sure to check out my previous post on the 50 best kiddie songs here. Let’s keep these classic ditties alive for generations to come.

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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