Jack Be Nimble

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This article is about the nursery rhyme. For the 1993 film, see Jack Be Nimble (film).
"Jack Be Nimble"
Roud #13902
Jack Be Nimble 1 - WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546.jpg
William Wallace Denslow's illustrations for Jack Be Nimble, from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose
Written England
Published c. 1815
Form Nursery rhyme
Writer(s) Traditional
Language English

"Jack Be Nimble" is an English language nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 13902.


The most common version of the rhyme is:

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over
The candlestick.[1]

Origins and meaning[edit]

Jack is a dog, in Denslow's version

The rhyme is first recorded in a manuscript of around 1815 and was collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the mid-nineteenth century.[1] Jumping candlesticks was a form of fortune telling and a sport. Good luck was said to be signalled by clearing a candle without extinguishing the flame.[1]

In other media[edit]

A variation of this rhyme is featured in the song "American Pie", by Don McLean in 1971, with a play on the title of the Rolling Stones song, "Jumpin' Jack Flash":

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire's the devil's only friend.

It is also a line in Lindsey Buckingham's song "Holiday Road", featured in National Lampoon's Vacation:

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick
Take a ride on the West Coast kick
Holiday road


  1. ^ a b c I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 226–7.