"Olly Olly Oxen Free" is said in hiding games like "Hide and Seek" or "Capture the Flag" when you want everyone to come out and show themselves.


Some say it's a corruption of the variation, "All that are out come in free!"


We asked on the Mama Lisa's World Facebook Group if anyone says "Olly Olly Oxen Free" as part of a game. Here are some of the responses we received:

"Not now as I'm 75 but it used to be part of our games when we were kids. I think we used it in hide n seek and it meant every one could return with no penalty. I think it signaled the start of a new game. The 'seeker' would cover their eyes, count to 100 while all the hiders hid and then the game was underway. It has quite a history and, of course, ye old Wiki has the low down...lol" -Andrew Galloway

"We used to play red rover and chant it." -Cindy Young Weaver

"I've heard it was used instead of 'ready or not, here I come' after the seeker finishes counting in a game of hide and seek." -Alisa Marko Iannucci

"In the 1950's and 60's in my hometown, the rhyme went:

All ye, all ye come free.
If you don't come in, you'll be I-T!

-Tom Satterly

Please email me to let us know when (and how) you say "Olly Olly Oxen Free". Thanks! -Mama Lisa

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Thanks to everyone who shared their version of this rhyme with us!