Rain, Go Away | Top 10 English Nursery Rhymes

Top 10 English Nursery Rhymes

It’s surprising to find out that good old nursery rhymes, songs we all grew up with, have references to historical events which are often hard to discern or even imagine. Even more, songs that were supposedly written for kids sometimes contain lyrics that are bleak and harsh, making us wonder if there’s a hidden context that is almost impossible to understand.

Whether political or even a bit cruel, English nursery rhymes date back to the 17th century and were adopted by the entire English-speaking world, or sometimes even translated to other languages to finally become a global legacy. This is our list of the best children’s songs from England. Note that we give you an instrumental version of all of these songs for free, so watch out for the links under the videos.


1. Rain, Rain, Go Away

“Rain, Rain, Go Away” is a nursery song about driving away the rain, so the children can play outside. The lyrics are known at least from the 17th century, included in a collection of proverbs.

Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


2. Hickory, Dickory, Dock

“Hickory, Dickory, Dock” is a often sung as a counting-out song. The words to this 1744 rhyme is thought to have been based on the astronomical clock at Exeter Cathedral, in Devon, South England. The clock has a small hole in the door below the face for the resident cat to hunt mice.

Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


3. Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

As times and social concepts change, this rhyme’s reference to black sheep caused some concern and debate over its political correctness. In reality, many tried to explain its meaning in several ways, which still remain purely hypothetical. However, both the title and its lyrics have been referred to in literature (Rudyard Kipling) and popular culture.

Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


4. Pop! Goes the Weasel

In Britain, “Pop! Goes the Weasel” has been played as a children’s game since at least the late 19th century. That would look like a common story if only this rhyme (with lyrics of a vague meaning) hadn’t started to become popular as “an old English dance” performed on stage and in dance-halls according to a music sheet acquired by the British Library in 1853.

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Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


5. London Bridge is Falling Down

Matilda of Scotland, Henry I’s consort, and Eleanor of Provence, consort of Henry III, had the responsibility of building or repairing works on early 11th and 13th century respectively and are two of the candidates for the “fair lady” of the chorus to this English classic.

Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


6. Humpty Dumpty

The rhyme of this English nursery rhyme, expressing probably a riddle, dates from the late 18thcentury and the tune from 1870, but there is no specific information about its origins. Humpty Dumpty is a figure usually illustrated as an anthropomorphic egg. As a character it is most known from Lewis Carroll’s novel “Through the Looking-Glass”.

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Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


7. Jack and Jill

In “Jack and Jill”, an 18th century English rhyme, the phrase of the two names suggests, possibly, a romantically attached couple, as in the proverb “A good Jack makes a good Jill”.

Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


8. The Muffin Man

Victorian households had many of their fresh foods delivered, such as muffins, which were delivered door-to-door by a muffin man, in this case from Drury Lane, a street on the eastern boundary of the Covent Garden area of London. The “muffin” in question was the bread product known in the United States as English muffins.

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Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


9. Ring a Ring o’ Roses

Known as “Ring Around the Rosie” in the United States, this is a popular English playground singing game.

Concerning the meaning of lyrics and game, folklorists believe they are of pagan origins, while more recent readings, which appeared in the mid-twentieth century, associate the context with the Great Plague which happened in England in 1665, or with earlier outbreaks of the Black Death in England – although this is still considered speculation.

Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


10. Oranges and Lemons

Another traditional nursery rhyme and singing game from England, which makes reference to the bells of several churches located near or within the City of London. In the game, the players file, in pairs, through an arch made by two of the players (made by having the players face each other, raise their arms over their head, and clasp their partners’ hands). On the last word, the children forming the arch drop their arms to catch the pair of children currently passing through

Printable lyrics and free instrumental download, here.


Watch all the songs of this article on this video playlist:


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