Olly olly oxen free

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

Olly olly oxen free (and variants: ollie ollie umphrey, olly-olly-ee, outtie outtie lets be free, all-y all-y all set free,[1] Ollie Ollie in come free,[2] ally alley ocean free, etc.) is a catchphrase used in such children's games as hide and seek 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 (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. It is thought[by whom?] to derive from the phrase "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.[3] Various calls used for such purposes have gone by the collective name of "ollyoxalls" in some places.[4]

There is also some speculation[attribution needed] that the phrase originates from the German phrase "alle alle auch sind frei", which loosely translated means "everyone is also free". Mispronunciation of this by non-German children resulted in the current "olly olly oxen free".[citation needed]

The phrase can also be used to coordinate hidden players in the game kick the can, in which a group of people hide within a given radius and a "seeker" is left to guard a can filled with rocks. The seeker has to try to find the "hiders" without allowing them to sneak in and kick the can. In many areas the phrase used is "All-y all-y in come free", to tell the remaining hidden players it is time to regroup in order to restart the game. The phrase is announced by a hider who successfully sneaks in and kicks the can.[citation needed] All-y all-y in come free is phoenetically very similar to the Dutch phrase " Alle Alle inkom vrij" (Everyone is allowed in free/ all free entrance)

An old version of the phrase is "all ye, all ye, all come free."[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The phrase or its variant appears in the following songs: "Oliolioxinfree" By Sworn In, "Ollie Ollie" by Flatfoot 56, "Stranger than Fiction" by Bad Religion, "Drive" by R.E.M., "Play with Me" by Extreme, "Olly Olly Oxen Free" by Amanda Palmer, "Ollie" by The Brobecks, "Ally, Ally, Oxen Free" by Rod McKuen, "Hide and Seek" by Schematic, "Olley Oxen Free" by Terry Scott Taylor, "Olly Olly Oxen Free" by Hostage Calm, "Bad Girls Club" by Falling in Reverse, "Dimmer" by Bishop Allen and "Throwdown" from Class of 3000.
  • In the movie Child's Play 3 a doll infused with the soul of serial killer, Chucky uses the phrase to call out his intended victim, Tyler, out of hiding in an attempt to steal his body.
  • In the video game Bugs Bunny Lost in Time for the PlayStation, the word is one of the unlockable magic tricks needed to reach hidden areas. By saying it, he is pushed up as if there was a spring below him. It would only work above a shining spring symbol.
  • In the HALO novel series, the phrase is a seven-note whistle used by the Spartan IIs as the "all clear" signal.
  • In Seinfeld Season 7 Episode 8, "The Pool Guy", when Newman was running toward the pool to jump in he yelled the phrase, after which he lands on the pool boy.[5]
  • The phrase is used in Star Trek Season One, Episode Eight "Miri" by the pre-pubescent inhabitants of a secondary earth.[6]
  • In Mad Men season one, episode 12 ("Nixon vs. Kennedy"), Ken Cosgrove happily yells out the phrase after Don Draper, the last senior executive in the building, has left, so the remaining staff can start their party.
  • The phrase was reinvented for the song Ally Ally Oxen Free written by Rod McKuen and Sammy Yates in a critique of aluminium oxide pollution. The song was recorded by The Kingston Trio and featured on their 1963 album Time to Think.
  • The phrase "Olly Olly Oxen Free" is sometimes used in the first Splinter Cell video game by Georgian guards who are searching for the player (Sam Fisher) whilst hidden, often when the player is using the shadows.
  • In Pretty Little Liars Season 4, Episode 14, 'Who's In The Box?', A edits an old projector film, lacing in the message 'Ali Ali oxen free, whoever finds her gets to keep her. Kisses -A'
  • In Episode 37 of Team Four Star's Dragonball Z Abridged, Dr. Gero hides in a mountainous landscape and Vegeta shouts "Olly Olly Oxen Bitch" to try to get him out of hiding.
  • In Jay Asher's novel Thirteen Reasons Why, three friends use this phrase when they want to discuss personal issues with each other.
  • The phrase "Olly Olly Oxen Free" appears in the 2015 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis song "Downtown"


  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!". http://www.appalachianhistory.net. Dave Tabler. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ In Portsmouth, England for example. Opie, Iona and Peter. Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Oxford: Clarendon, 1959 p.143
  5. ^ http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/ThePoolGuy.html
  6. ^ http://www.voyager.cz/tos/epizody/12miritrans.htm