Olly olly oxen free

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For the 1978 film, see Olly Olly Oxen Free (film).

Olly olly oxen free (and variants: olly olly umphrey, olly olly ee, outtie outtie let's be free, olly olly oxen tree, all-y all-y all set free,[1] olly olly in come free,[2] ally alley ocean free, etc.) 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[3] (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.[4] Various calls used for such purposes have gone by the collective name of "ollyoxalls" in some places.[5] 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).[3] Another possible origin might be the Greek language. Óloi óloi éxo would translate to "everybody everybody out."[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Perry Como released a novelty song in 1941 entitled "Ollie Ollie Outs in Free"[6]
  • In the Oct. 3, 1955 Peanuts comic strip, Lucy calls "Olee Olee Olsen Free-O!" while presumably playing this game with the Peanuts gang. Violet corrects her that it is supposed to be "Ally Ally Out Are In Free."
  • In Dennis the Menace Season 1, Episode 18 (1960), Dennis says the phrase to call Mr. Wilson out of the closet in which he is developing film
  • The Kingston Trio released a song in 1963 entitled "Ally Ally Oxen Free"
  • The phrase was used as the title for a 1978 film starring Katharine Hepburn[7]
  • In House of Games (1987), the phrase is used to signal a partner at the poker table to stop a con that was ruined by the use of a water pistol
  • In Child's Play 3 (1991), Chucky says the phrase when he tries to find Tyler who is playing hide and seek
  • R.E.M.'s song "Drive" (1992), includes the lyrics "Olly olly in come free"
  • In Seinfeld Season 7 Episode 8 (1995), when Newman was running toward the pool to jump in, he yelled the phrase[8]
  • In the Halo novels and games, members of the Spartan companies use the phrase to alert other Spartans to their presence or as an "all clear" signal[9]
  • In Jak and Daxter (2001), Daxter shouts this when they are hunting villains
  • In Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (2002), guards will call this out while searching for the player
  • In Dead Like Me Season 2, Episode 14 (2003), the protagonist George Lass says the phrase after reaping a graveling
  • The Brobecks's 2005 song "Ollie" mentions the phrase
  • In the novel Thirteen Reasons Why (2007), "olly olly oxen free" becomes a catchphrase among the characters
  • In Mad Men Season 1, Episode 12 (2007), Ken Cosgrove shouts this phrase to gather staff members for an office party
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show (2009), Ed says the phrase when searching for Eddy's big brother in a gag factory
  • In The Simpsons "Rednecks and Broomsticks" (Season 21, Episode 7) Lisa utters the phrase when exiting the base of a tree after a game of hide and seek.
  • HIM's 2010 song "Love, the Hardest Way" mentions the phrase
  • Widespread Panic's 2010 song "Saint Ex" mentions the phrase
  • Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra released a song in 2012 entitled "Olly Olly Oxen Free"
  • Ramona Falls' 2012 song "Spore" mentions the phrase
  • In The Vampire Diaries Season 3 Episode 10 (2012), Damon Salvatore uses the phrase "Come on, Stef. Olly olly oxen free" as he walks into sunlight
  • Falling in Reverse's 2013 song "Bad Girls Club" mentions the phrase
  • In Pretty Little Liars Season 3 Episode 22 (2013), Spencer Hastings uses the phrase when found by Dr. Sullivan at Radley Sanitarium. And in Season 4 Episode 15 (2014), the character known as "A" writes "Ali Ali oxen-free. Whoever finds her, gets to keep her."
  • In "Sonic Universe" issue 66, when Nack tells Bean to grab the chaos emerald, Bean refuses to do so, saying "Nuh-Uh. You didn't say 'Simon-Says-Mother-May-I-Ollie-Ollie-Oxen-Free."
  • In Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1, Episode 8 (2015), the eponymous main character says the phrase while seeking out his evil clone
  • Macklemore's 2015 hit "Downtown" mentions the phrase
  • Sworn In's 2015 single is named after the phrase using the variation "Oliolioxinfree"
  • The 2016 video game Oxenfree is named after the phrase, and references to its meaning can be found in the game
  • In Criminal Minds season 10 episode 19, the phrase is repeatedly mentioned throughout the show.
  • In Last Man Standing Season 6 Episode 01 Mandy says it when she finds her dad's store completely empty.


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ In Portsmouth, England for example. Opie, Iona and Peter. Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Oxford: Clarendon, 1959 p.143
  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. ^ Mann, William J. (2006-10-03). Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 487–. ISBN 9780805076257. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Seinfeld Scripts - The Pool Guy". SeinfeldScripts. 
  9. ^ "Oly Oly Oxen Free". Halopedia. Halopedia. Retrieved 7 March 2016.