Origin of "oly oly oxen free"

Posted by ESC on November 02, 2001

In Reply to: Origin of "oly oly oxen free" posted by Russ Kelly 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).