Alphabet song

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An alphabet song is any of various songs used to teach children an alphabet. Alphabet songs typically recite the names of all letters of the alphabet of a given language in order.

The A.B.C. (Verse 1)[edit]

"The A.B.C." /ˌ.bˈs/ or "A.B.Cs" /ˌ.bˈsz/ is one of the best-known English language alphabet songs, and perhaps the one most frequently referred to as "the alphabet song", especially in the United States.

Music for the alphabet song including some common variations on the lyrics

The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title "The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano forte". The musical arrangement was attributed to Louis Le Maire (sometimes Lemaire), an 18th-century composer. This was "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1835, by C. Bradlee, in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts", according to the Newberry Library,[1] which also says, "The theme is that used by Mozart for his piano variations, Ah, vous dirai-je, maman."[2] This tune is the same as the tune for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and similar to that of "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep".

Lyrics: (each line represents two measures, or eight beats)

A, B, C, D, E, F, G... (/ b s d ɛf /)
H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P... (/ k ɛlɛmɛn p/; "L, M, N, O" spoken twice as quickly as rest of rhyme)
Q, R, S.../ T, U, V... (/kjuː ɑːr ɛs | t juː v/; pause between S and T, though in some variants, "and" is inserted)
W... X.../ Y and(/&) Z. (/ˈdʌbəl.juː ɛks | w ænd z/; pause between X and Y, and W and X last for two beats)
Now I know my ABCs
Next time, won't you sing with me?[3]

Due to the speed at which 'L, M, N, O, P' is spoken it is a common misconception among children still learning the alphabet to believe that it is in fact its own letter called 'elemenopee' (among other variations). Some have proposed teaching slower versions of the song to avoid this issue.[4]

Backwards alphabet[edit]

This is a version that goes Z to A instead of A to Z.

z-y-x, w
v-u-t, s-r-q
Now you know your ZYXs
I bet that's not what you expected![5]

The e-d-c-b part is as fast as the l-m-n-o part in the normal alphabet song.

Zed for Zee[edit]

In the United States, Z is pronounced zee; in most other English-speaking countries (such as the UK, Canada and Australia) it is pronounced zed. Generally, the absent zee-rhyme is not missed, although some children use a zee pronunciation in the rhyme which they would not use elsewhere. Variants of the song exist to accommodate the zed pronunciation. One variation shortens the second line and lengthens the last, to form a near rhyme between N and zed:[6][7]

{ \time 4/4 c'4 c' g' g' | a' a' g'2 | f'4 f' e' e' | d' d' c'2 | g'4 g' f' f' | e' e' d'2 | g'4 \times 2/3 { f'8 f' f' } e'4 d' | c' r r2 | \bar "|." } \addlyrics { A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V dub- a- U X Y "Z(ed)" }

French Canadian version[edit]

A French-language version of the song is also taught in Canada, with generally no alterations to the melody except in the final line that requires adjustment to accommodate the two-syllable pronunciation of the French y.

Phonics songs[edit]

Because the English language has more than 40 sounds[8] and only 26 letters, children and beginning readers also need to learn the different sounds (or phonemes) associated with each letter. Many songs have been written to teach phonemic awareness and they are usually referred to as alphabet songs.

Acrostic songs[edit]

There are also songs that go through the alphabet, making some of the letters stand for something in the process. An example, "'A' You're Adorable" (also known as "The Alphabet Love Song"), was recorded in 1948, by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise, Sidney Lippman, and later Perry Como.

A newer example of this is from the musical Matilda. "School Song" is an acrostic that spells out the alphabet phonetically.[citation needed]

Backwards song (Verse 2)[edit]

The group Wee Sing released an alphabet song with the letters in reverse order, called "ZYXs".[9]

The Canadian children's TV series The Big Comfy Couch used a version of the song in the first episode of Season 4, "Backwards".[10]

Comedian Soupy Sales released a song in 1966 called "Backwards Alphabet" which contained the reverse alphabet in lyrical style.[citation needed] The original version of the song was performed by actress Judi Rolin with the Smothers Brothers in the 1966 teleplay adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass.[11]

See also[edit]

Related English language songs[edit]

Traditional alphabet songs in other languages[edit]


  1. ^ "Newberry's Library Catalog". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  2. ^ The alphabet song is sometimes said to come from another of Bradlee's publications, "The Schoolmaster", but the first line of that song is given as "Come, come my children, I must see", in Yale University's library catalog. It is described as "a favorite glee for three voices, as sung at the Salem glee club."
  3. ^ "Listen to the song sung". Archived from the original (RealPlayer) on 28 September 2007.
  4. ^ "The alphabet song was changed and people were not happy". KNXV. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  5. ^ Schiller, Pamela Byrne; Willis, Clarissa (2006). School Days: 28 Songs and Over 300 Activities for Young Children. Gryphon House. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-87659-019-5.
  6. ^ "Definition of ZED". Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Zed | Definition of Zed by Oxford Dictionary on also meaning of Zed". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  8. ^ Moats, Louisa C. (1998). "Teaching Decoding". American Educator. 22. ISSN 0148-432X.
  9. ^ Wee Sing (7 July 2015), Wee Sing | The Alphabet Song, retrieved 11 July 2019
  10. ^ FilmRise (31 January 2014), The Big Comfy Couch – Season 4 Ep 1 – "Backwards", archived from the original on 2 February 2017, retrieved 18 January 2017
  11. ^ storyjan (13 July 2007). "Alice through the Looking Glass: "Backwards c"". Archived from the original on 23 November 2021 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "Listen (Educational & Funny) Kids Songs for Ages 0–5". 18 March 2017.
  13. ^ Children sing the ADLaM alphabet, as obtained from Bach, Deborah; Lerner, Sara (29 July 2019). "Adlam Comes Online". Microsoft. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  14. ^ Dene Syllabics Alphabet, Indigenous Languages of Manitoba Inc., 4 May 2018, archived from the original on 23 November 2021, retrieved 27 October 2021 – via YouTube