Olly olly oxen free

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Olly olly oxen free is a catchphrase used in children's games such as hide and seek, capture the flag, or kick the can to indicate that players who are hiding can come out into the open without losing the game, that the position of the sides in a game has changed[1] (as in which side is in the field or which side is at bat or "up" in baseball or kickball), or, alternatively, that the game is entirely over.

Cassidy and Hall write that the phrase may be derived from all ye, all ye outs in free, all the outs in free, or possibly calling all the "outs" in free; in other words, all who are out may come in without penalty.[2] Various calls used for such purposes have gone by the collective name of "ollyoxalls" in some places.[3] Tukey and Rowell speculate that the phrase may be a corruption of a hypothetical and ungrammatical German phrase alle, alle, auch sind frei (all, all, are also free).[1]


Olly olly umphrey, olly olly ee, olly olly auction free, outtie outtie let's be free, olly olly oxen tree, all-y all-y all set free, All-Ye All-Ye In Come Free, and Alle Alle Auch Sind Frie. [4] olly olly in come free,[5] ally alley ocean free, olly olly ogden free, etc.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Perry Como released a novelty song in 1941 entitled "Ollie Ollie Outs in Free".[6]
  • In the original Twilight Zone series (1959-1964) episode entitled, "Kick the Can," aired on February 9, 1962, (Season 3, Episode 21), boys repeatedly utter the phrase "Olly, Olly Oxen Free" while playing Kick the Can. [7]
  • In the Star Trek episode "Miri", the red head boy says, "But they don't see us. We hide. Olly olly oxen free!"; the other children reply, "Olly olly oxen free! Olly olly oxen free! Olly olly oxen free!"[8]
  • A 1978 Katharine Hepburn film is titled Olly, Olly Oxen Free.[9]
  • In the 1995 Seinfeld season 7, episode 8 show "The Pool Guy", Newman yells the phrase as he is running toward the pool to jump in.[10]
  • In the 2004 album Imaginarium: Songs from the Neverhood first disc, track number 2 is named "Olley Oxen Free", from the video game The Neverhood.[11]
  • In the 2016 film Lavender, the children play hide and seek and use the term "olly olly oxen free", and Jane as a child repeats the term as she falls asleep.[12]
  • Ronnie Radke, of the band Falling in Reverse, sings this phrase in his band's song "Bad Girls Club", released on June 17th, 2013 as track #2 of their album titled "Fashionably Late". The relevant verse is; "Olly Olly Olly Oxen Free, all the bad girls come cheer with me."[13]
  • Oxenfree, a 2016 video game published by Night School Studio.


  1. ^ a b Tukey, Paul Boardway; Rowell, Victoria (2012). Tag, Toss & Run: 40 Classic Lawn Games. Storey Pub. pp. 13–. ISBN 9781603425605. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Cassidy, Frederick Gome; and Joan Hall, "Ole Ole Olson All In Free", another way of saying it is oll-e oll-e ox-and-free Dictionary of American Regional English, (1985) Vol III (I-O), p. 874.
  3. ^ In Portsmouth, England for example. Opie, Iona and Peter. Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Oxford: Clarendon, 1959 p.143
  4. ^ Opie, Iona and Peter. Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Oxford: Clarendon, 1959 p.143; Bronner, Simon. American Children's Folklore. Little Rock: August House, 1988 p.p. 178
  5. ^ Tabler, Dave (June 8, 2010). "Ollie Ollie In Come Free!". appalachianhistory.net. Dave Tabler. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ Macfarlane, Malcolm; Crossland, Ken (2012-05-10). Perry Como: A Biography and Complete Career Record. McFarland. pp. 26–. ISBN 9781476600246. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  7. ^ https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=the-twilight-zone-1959&episode=s03e21.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "The Star Trek Transcripts - Miri". www.chakoteya.net. 
  9. ^ Mann, William J. (2006-10-03). Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 487–. ISBN 9780805076257. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "Seinfeld Scripts - The Pool Guy". SeinfeldScripts. 
  11. ^ "VGMdb - Imaginarium: Songs from the Neverhood". Retrieved 2 September 2017. 
  12. ^ Schager, Nick (19 April 2016). "Film Review: 'Lavender'". 
  13. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/album/fashionably-late-mw0002545088.  Missing or empty |title= (help)