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, olly-olly-oxen-tree, 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, 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 the German Alle, Alle, auch sind frei (English: Everyone everyone, is also free).[3]

In popular culture[edit]

A variant of the phrase "Ollie Ollie Outs in Free" (1941) was the title of one of Perry Como's novelty songs.[6]

The phrase was used as the title for a 1978 film starring Katharine Hepburn.[7]

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.[8]

In "13 Reasons Why", Olly-olly-oxen-free becomes a catchphrase among the characters.

In "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell", once you have alerted a guard to your presence, but they have not yet seen you, they call this out whilst searching for you.

Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra released a song in 2012 named "olly olly oxen free"

In the 2015 Starz television series Ash vs Evil Dead (season 1, episode 8), the title character, Ash, says the phrase while seeking out his evil clone.

The Ramona Falls (band) song 'spore', lead singer Brent Knopf mentions the phrase 'Olly Olly Oxen Free'.

The video game Oxenfree is named after the phrase, and references to its meaning can be found in the game.

In Macklemore's 2015 hit " Downtown", he mentions the phrase 'olley olley oxen free'

In Season 3 Episode 22 "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" of Pretty Little Liars, Spencer Hastings uses the phrase "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free" when found by Dr. Sullivan at Radley Sanitarium. And again in Season 4 Episode 15 "Who's in the Box?" A writes "Ali Ali oxen-free. Whoever finds her, gets to keep her."


  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.