Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

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"Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman" redirects here. For the variations for piano by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, see Variations on "Ah vous dirais-je, Maman". For the upcoming Indian film, see Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (film).
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
Roud #7666
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.png
Lyrics by Jane Taylor
Published 1806
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" is a popular English lullaby. The lyrics are from an early 19th-century English poem, "The Star" by Jane Taylor. The poem, which is in couplet form, was first published in 1806 in Rhymes for the Nursery, a collection of poems by Taylor and her sister Ann. It is sung to the tune of the French melody "Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman", which was published in 1761 and later arranged by Mozart for a famous set of variations.[1] The English lyrics have six stanzas, although only the first is widely known. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7666.


The English lyrics were first written as a poem by Jane Taylor (1783–1824)[2] and published with the title "The Star" in Rhymes for the Nursery by Jane and her sister Ann Taylor (1782-1866) in London in 1806.[3]

Tune for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

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     Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
     How I wonder what you are.
     Up above the world so high,
     Like a diamond in the sky.

     When the blazing sun is gone,
     When he nothing shines upon,
     Then you show your little light,
     Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

     Then the traveller in the dark,
     Thanks you for your tiny spark,
     He could not see which way to go,
     If you did not twinkle so.

     In the dark blue sky you keep,
     And often through my curtains peep,
     For you never shut your eye,
     'Till the sun is in the sky.

     As your bright and tiny spark,
     Lights the traveller in the dark.
     Though I know not what you are,
     Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

     Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
     How I wonder what you are.
     Up above the world so high,
     Like a diamond in the sky.

     Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
     How I wonder what you are.
     How I wonder what you are.

Appearances of the melody[edit]

Tema of Variations on "Ah vous dirais-je, Maman", as interpreted by Mozart. piano solo

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Many songs in various languages have been based on the "Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman" melody. In English, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", the "Alphabet Song", and a variant of it is used for "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep". It is also the basis of the Scots song "Coulter's Candy"[citation needed] and "What a Wonderful World".

The German Christmas carol "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann", with words by Hoffmann von Fallersleben, also uses the melody, as does the Hungarian Christmas carol "Hull a pelyhes fehér hó", the Dutch "Altijd is Kortjakje ziek", the Spanish "Campanita del Lugar," and the Turkish "Daha Dün Annemizin."

Several classical compositions have been inspired by this tune:

First appearances of the melody and the original French text version[edit]

The original French rhyme Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman, was far from a children's rhyme. Apparently it originated in the first half of the 18th century. As there was no published version of the text before 1774, several slightly differing versions of what could have been the "original" version exist:

  • Ah ! vous dirai-je maman, bergerie (1740).[4]
  • Comparing two versions of "La Confidence" with the nursery rhyme version[5]

In these versions a girl confides a secret to her mother: that she has been seduced by "Silvandre". Only in one version cited above did the girl apparently make a narrow escape ("Je m'échappai par bonheur"),[6] in the other versions the girl appears to have been "beaten" by L'Amour ("Love").

As for the history of the melody and the non-nursery rhyme version(s) of the French text:[7][8][citation needed]

  • 1761: first publication of the music (without lyrics) of Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman in "Les Amusements d'une Heure et Demy" by Mr. Bouin (Paris), p. 1.
  • Around 1765, the words and music appear in a manuscript entitled "Recueil de Chansons" under the title "Le Faux Pas", p. 43.
  • 1774: earliest known printed publication of the lyrics together with the music in volume two of "Recueil de Romances" by M.D.L. (De Lusse) published in Brussels, under the title "La confidence naïve" (p. 75).
  • Around 1780 (Paris): the words and music appear in sheet music under the title "Les amours de Silvandre"2."
  • 1785: First publication of Mozart's Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman variations.
  • 1792: First performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 94 ("Surprise") in the Andante

As for the composition date of Mozart's Variations, for a time the variations were thought to have been composed in 1778, while Mozart stayed in Paris from April to September in that year, the assumption being that the melody of a French song could only have been picked up by Mozart while residing in France. For this presumed composition date, in the chronological catalogue of Mozart's compositions the composition was renumbered from K. 265 to K. 300e.[8] Later analysis of Mozart's manuscript of the composition by Wolfgang Plath rather indicated 1781-1782 as the probable composition date.[9]

As nursery rhyme[edit]


Ah ! Vous dirais-je Maman
Ce qui cause mon tourment?
Papa veut que je raisonne
Comme une grande personne
Moi je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.

English translation:

Oh! Shall I tell you, Mommy
What is tormenting me?
Daddy wants me to reason
Like a grown-up person,
Me, I say that sweets
Are worth more than reasoning

The lyrics from "The Star" were first published with the tune in The Singing Master: First Class Tune Book in 1838.[2]

sheet music from Song Stories for the Kindergarten[10] About this sound Play 

The second two verses have significant changes by 1896, and the rest were lost in Song Stories for the Kindergarten[10] by Mildred J. Hill.

     Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
     How we wonder what you are.
     Up above the world so high,
     Like a diamond in the sky.

     When the glorious sun has set,
     And the grass with dew is wet,
     Then you show your little light,
     Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

     When the golden sun doth rise,
     Fills with shining light the skies,
     Then you fade away from sight,
     Shine no more 'till comes the night.

Other text versions[edit]

Twinkle Twinkle little star (English) Lullaby from the Lullabies of Europe education project

The song is a popular target for parodies. "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat" is a parody of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" recited by the Hatter during the mad tea-party, in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). It reads:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle—[2]

The Hatter is interrupted in his recitation. "The Bat" was the nickname of Professor Bartholomew Price, one of the dons at Oxford, a former teacher of Carroll's and well known to the Liddell family. It is one of the few parodies in the Alice books of which the original is still widely known.

In a Carl Barks "Donald Duck" comic-strip story, Donald is competing with his three nephews, as part of a Junior Woodchucks contest. Donald is challenged to sing a campfire song, and all he can think of is, "Twinkle, twinkle, little starfish,/ How I wonder what you arfish". This is one example where he is beaten by his cleverer nephews.

The Elegants released a single adapted from this song called "Little Star", which made #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. In 1962, Alvin and the Chipmunks performed a jazz rendition of the song for their album The Chipmunk Songbook.

An adaptation of the song, named "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Earth", was written by Charles Randolph Grean, Fred Hertz and Leonard Nimoy (Nimoy recites the text as Spock explaining how the star-people wish upon an earth and so forth). It is included on his first 1967 album Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space.

The song has been quoted by the American hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince on the track, "Twinkle, Twinkle (I'm Not a Star)" from their 1993 final studio album, Code Red.

A version using synonyms from Roget's Thesaurus exists.[11] An anonymous astronomy parody, quoted in Violent Universe by Nigel Calder (BBC, 1969), refers to pulsars and quasars. A different version of this parody attributed to George Gamow and Nigel Calder was published in Galaxies in the Universe: An Introduction by Linda Sparke and John Gallagher (Cambridge University Press, 2000 - ISBN 0-521-59740-4).

The Girl Scouts of the USA placed a full page ad in the 19 March 2006 New York Times containing a version of the rhyme that was "resung by science" as part of their "Girls Go Tech" campaign.[12]

Vashti Bunyan, an English singer-songwriter, composed "Lily Pond" based on this tune. It can be found on her 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day. American singer Elizabeth Mitchell covers the song on her 2006 album You Are My Little Bird.

Video game developer Visceral Games created a version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" for their 2008 survival-horror video game Dead Space with a sinister and dark theme.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c M. Cryer, Love Me Tender: The Stories Behind the World's Best-loved Songs (Frances Lincoln, 2009), pp. 83-5.
  3. ^ I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 397-8.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ The chronology is based on an account by Bob Kosovsky, librarian at the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, 2001
  8. ^ a b (in German:) Neue Mozart-Ausgabe, IX/26: Variationen für Klavier, Kritischer Bericht (Fischer, 1962), p. 58-59
  9. ^ Based on booklet notes by Robin Golding, 1991, for Daniel Barenboims Mozart: The Complete Piano Sonatas and Variations, EMI Classics 8 CD box No. 5 73915 2.
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ G. Hughes, A history of English words (Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), p. 40.
  12. ^ Girls Go Tech ad at the Wayback Machine (archived September 29, 2011)

External links[edit]