Olly Olly Oxen Free | What Does This English Term Mean?

Have you ever heard someone use the term ‘olly olly oxen free’ and wondered what they were talking about? We are going to take a look at what this phrase means and how it can be used in day-to-day conversation. We will also look at the history of the term and where it originally came from.

Olly Olly Oxen Free

“Olly Olly Oxen Free” Meaning

“Olly Olly Oxen Free” is a phrase that is often used in children’s games, particularly in hide-and-seek or other games where one player is “it” and must find the other players. When the game is over or when all players have been found, the player who is “it” may yell “Olly Olly Oxen Free!” to signal to the other players that they are free to come out of hiding and return to the starting point without being tagged.

According to some sources, ranchers would use a similar phrase to call their oxen back to the barn or corral after letting them out to graze. The exact phrase used may have varied depending on the region and the language spoken by the ranchers, but it is possible that “Olly Olly Oxen Free” is a variation of this practice. However, the use of the phrase in children’s games is more commonly known and widespread than its use in ranching practices.

Origin of this idiom

The exact origin of the phrase is unclear, but it is believed to have originated in the United States in the late 19th or early 20th century. Some speculate that it may have been derived from a German phrase, “Alle, alle auch sind frei”, which means “Everyone, everyone is also free“. Others believe that it may have been a way for children to call back their oxen after letting them out to graze.

Regardless of its origin, “Olly Olly Oxen Free” has become a popular phrase in children’s games and is often used as a signal that the game is over and that everyone is safe.

“Olly Olly Oxen Free” Examples

Examples in Statements

This is a statement being made by a child playing hide and seek.

  • ‘OK, I give up, olly olly oxen free.’

Here is a statement which is being made by a teacher.

  • ‘The students were playing hide and seek but when break time was over they called olly olly oxen free.’

Conversation Examples

If you are curious to know how the term ‘olly olly oxen free’ would work in a conversation. Here are some examples of things you might hear.

The first conversation is taking place between two parents at the playground.

  • Person 1: “The children are playing hide and seek.”
  • Person 2: “Yes but I don’t think that little Billy will find all of his friends.”
  • Person 1: “He can always call olly olly oxen free if he wants to give up.”

This conversation is happening between some children.

  • Person 1: “Shall we play hide and seek?”
  • Person 2: “OK, you hide. one, two three, ready or not here I come.”
  • Person 1: “You’ll never find me.”
  • Person 2: “You’re right, olly olly oxen free.”

Other Ways to Say “Olly Olly Oxen Free”

There are other ways in which you can express the meaning of the term ‘olly olly oxen free.’

Here are some examples of things you might say which would mean the same thing.

  • You can come out now
  • All ye out come in free

What Is “Olly Olly Oxen Free”? | Image

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Last Updated on September 29, 2023

1 thought on “Olly Olly Oxen Free | What Does This English Term Mean?”

  1. Ppl… it was a saying from old ranchers that used to have lots of oxen, and when they would let tha oxen out of a certain pinned in area or a fenced enclosure it took some time since it would most likely be a larger area, when tha full count has exited tha enclosure they would yell Ollie Ollie oxen free! Which is jus slur for All of tha oxen are free! So that tha ranchers knew to head on and proceed with whatever it was they were doing with their head count, or often times that it was tha end of tha day and that meant dinner time.

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