How did Nursery Rhymes Originate?

Children in many parts of the world grow up chanting hundred of jingles, verses and rhymes which their great-great-grandparents chanted before them. For though the expression “nursery rhyme” was first used in 1823, such rhymes have existed for hundreds of year.

Nursery rhymes have great variety of origins. Many of them have grown out of festivals, ceremonies, and rites used hundreds of years ago in Europe.

some have been made to explain the wonders of the world. Some repeat old chants for controlling rains, storms, droughts, and floods. “London Bridge Is Falling Down” is said to date back to ancient days.


Prayer rhymes, such as “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, bless the bed that I lie on,’’ repeat ancient rites. Rhymes may come from a game of knuckle-bones which started in Japan. It travelled to Rome and was carried to England and Europe by conquering Roman soldiers.

Rhymes sometimes come from street cries of peddlers who called out their service in rhymes. “Hot please, hot, hot, hot” was such a street cry. Rhymed stories and songs were printed on long sheets of paper and sold of a penny.

“There Blind Mice” was printed in 1609 and sold in this way. Some rhymes were learned from traveling actors who gave plays in the streets.

Schoolboy actors used the verse “Thirty days hath September” as far black as 1602! About half of the 800 rhymes commonly used today are 200 or more years old. 

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