phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Origin of "oly oly oxen free"

Posted by Masakim on November 02, 2001

In Reply to: Re: Origin of "oly oly oxen free" posted by ESC on November 02, 2001

: : Anyone know of the origin of the childrens game of hide and seek phrase "oly oly oxen free"? I've heard it was in a nursery rhyme? Thanks

: For more discussion, search the archives under "oxen."

: OLLY, OLLY OXEN FREE - "If you've ever wondered about the origins of this chant - used to call in all players at the end of a game of hide-and-seek - be advised that the experts only have a partial answer to your lifelong puzzlement. Word sleuths are fairly certain that the 'oxen' (or 'octen') in the call is simply a childish corruption of 'all in.' The rest remains a mystery." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

See also:
The Straight Dope (June 22, 1990) at http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a900622a.html
The Mavens' Word of the Day (April 22, 1997) at http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19970422