The Meaning of Ring Around the Rosie: What It Is and How To Use It

Many people know the nursery rhyme Ring Around the Rosie, but what does Ring Around the Rosie mean? Learn all about this beloved song today.

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Nursery rhymes are often taught to children; some are used for educational purposes, while others are simply fun songs that children use to learn about melody, story, rhyming, and other forms of these linguistics. 

Nursery rhymes are different worldwide, but one that seems to have found its way to children across the globe is “Ring Around the Rosie.” Read more to learn about the meaning of this beloved children’s game.

What Does Ring Around the Rosie Mean?

According to the Library of Congress and Song Facts, “Ring Around the Rosie” or “Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses” is a folk song that first arose during the Great Plague. The song was written by James FitzGerald and was first published in Kate Greenaway’s original edition of Mother Goose (also known as Old Nursery Rhymes) in 1881.

The rhyme is about the bubonic plague and Black Death. The plague devastated England and most of Western Europe in places like Germany. Many of the lines in “Ring Around the Rosie” reference symptoms of the plague, such as sneezing, coughing, and the red circular rash or a rosy rash that was present in different forms of plague. 

People thought that posies would remedy symptoms of the illness, hence their reference in the song. Additionally, the titular “rosie” refers to rashes that were symptomatic of the Black Death, while “a-tishoo” references the sneezing symptoms of the plague. Finally, everyone “falling down” at the end of the rhyme references death.

Additionally, people often carried a posy of herbs around to ward off the disease’s scent and supposedly quell symptoms. This song is dark and somewhat morbid, though children who sing it often don’t realize this. Instead, they simply think that it is a fun rhyme and enjoy falling to the ground at the end of it.

What Are the Lyrics to Ring Around the Rosie?

Sporcle states that the lyrics of the song vary slightly based on location. This is the case for many other songs that are not nursery rhymes as well. In America, the lyrics of the song “Ring Around the Rosie” are as follows:

Ring-a-round the rosie,

A pocket full of posies,

Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.

In Britain, the “Ashes! Ashes!” lyric is replaced with “A-tishoo! A-tishoo!” Variations of the song have changed over time, but the the first line and second line have remained similar. 

In 1883, Iona and Peter Opie referenced a posie for “Jack, Jim, and little Moses” who all “curchey” (AKA, curtsey) in and out.

In another 1883 version of the song by William Wells Newell, the person who “stoops last” is meant to tell “whom she loves best.” In this version, everyone in town gets a posie, including a “ring for little Josie.”

The song continued to evolve, and in 1939, John and Ruby Lomax recorded a group of African American adolescents from Wiergate, Texas. This version is much lighter, referencing the love of “Mr. Red” as well as light bread and sweet bread.

. It has evolved across different countries and different contexts.

What Are Other Nursery Rhymes?

Many nursery rhymes got their start in folklore, such as Humpty Dumpty. According to Dictionary, he was not originally an egg but a man featured in Lewis Carroll’s novel Through the Looking Glass.

How many nursery rhymes from this list of classic nursery rhymes did you sing as a child? 

  • Star Light Star Bright
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame
  • Marching Game
  • Hello Operator (Miss Susie Had a Steamboat)
  • Alphabet Song
  • Little Peter Rabbit
  • Billy Boy
  • To Market, To Market
  • Girls and Boys Come Out to Play
  • Skip To My Lou
  • Cold And Raw The North Wind Doth Blow
  • Rig a Jig Jig
  • Polly Put The Kettle On
  • Frog Went A-Courting
  • Sleep, Baby, Sleep
  • Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
  • John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
  • Pat-a-cake
  • Little Bo Peep
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep
  • K-I-S-S-I-N-G
  • One For Sorrow
  • One Two Three Four Five
  • Hickety Pickety
  • Little Miss Muffet
  • Roses are Red
  • Once I Saw a Little Bird
  • Old Mother Hubbard
  • Queen of Hearts
  • The Wheels On The Bus
  • Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
  • It’s Raining; It’s Pouring
  • Rock-a-bye Baby
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
  • Ten Green Bottles
  • Oranges and Lemons
  • Tweededum and Tweedledee
  • Johny Johny
  • Wee Willie Winkie
  • Peter Piper
  • A-Tisket, A-Tasket
  • Needles And Pins
  • Blow Wind, Blow
  • For Want of a Nail
  • Jack and Jill
  • Cheeks of Rose
  • Good Habits Song
  • Rain on the Green Grass
  • Georgie Porgie
  • Hush, Little Baby
  • I’m a Pretty Little Dutch Girl
  • Days of the Week
  • London Bridge is Falling Down
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star


Ring Around the Rosie is a British folk rhyme that emerged during the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death or the Great Plague. This song is thought to reference all of the symptoms and treatments for the plague. IT ends in all the participants falling down to reference death. 

This song has many different variations based on location and time, with some being much lighter and unrelated to the plague.


  1. Ring Around the Rosie: Metafolklore, Rhyme, and Reason | Folklife Today | Library of Congress 
  2. Ring Around the Rosie by Traditional | Songfacts 
  3. What Is the Real Meaning Behind ‘Ring Around the Rosie’? | Sporcle Blog 
  4. The Hidden Histories Of “Humpty Dumpty,” “London Bridge,” And “Ring Around The Rosie” |