There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is a children's folk song which has been around for at least 60 years.

old lady who swallowed a fly

The tune was written by Alan Mills and the lyrics by Rose Bonne but unfortunately I haven't been able to find out when!

I do know that a famous version of the song was released on Brunswick Records in 1953, sung by the American actor, writer and folk singer, Burl Ives.

The song's been recorded many times by many different singers and It's always a favourite with pre-schoolers.

As you'll see, the song has what's called a cumulative structure which means that each verse is longer than the one before it as things get added. In this the case the things that are added are animals, one more in each verse as the song progresses.

One of the things children love about this song is the challenge of remembering the ever-growing list of things the old lady swallows. It's great for developing young memories!

Sharing nursery songs and rhymes like There Was an Old Lady with kids is actually more important than many people realise.

Not only are they fun to sing, they also help stimulate the development of children's phonological awareness, a crucial pre-reading skill.


There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly, 
I don't know why she swallowed a fly: perhaps she'll die. 

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider, 
That wriggled and wiggled and tiggled inside her. 
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, 
I don't know why she swallowed a fly: perhaps she'll die. 

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird, 
How absurd to swallow a bird. 
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider, 
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, 
I don't know why she swallowed a fly: perhaps she'll die. 

There was an old lady who swallowed a cat, 
Fancy that, she swallowed a cat! 
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird, 
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider, 
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, 
I don't know why she swallowed a fly: perhaps she'll die. 

There was an old lady that swallowed a dog, 
What a hog, to swallow a dog. 
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat, 
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird, 
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider, 
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, 
I don't know why she swallowed a fly: perhaps she'll die. 

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow, 
I don't know how she swallowed a cow. 
She swallowed the cow to catch the dog, 
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat, 
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird, 
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider, 
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, 
I don't know why she swallowed a fly: perhaps she'll die. 
There was an old lady who swallowed a horse... 
She's dead, of course!



In case you're not familiar with the song, here's a Youtube clip of Judy Collins singing the song on an episode of The Muppet Show way back in 1977.

I was about 12 when this show was aired and I remember the clip well.

It's very funny! 




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