‘Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe’ is not just a nursery rhyme but a classic counting song as well. It has been used over ages in different places and across cultures.
There are several versions of the song as well. Kids use it to choose the ‘den’. The song starts with some fun syllables and ends with rhyming syllables, a phrase indicating the game’s goal.
Each syllable counts a child from a circle or a group. Finally, that kid is chosen or eliminated according to the game's rules.
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
The versions in some other languages are:
Une, mine, mane, mo,
Une, fine, fane, fo
Maticaire et matico,
Mets la main derrière ton dos
Ene, mene, ming, mang,
Osse bosse bakke disse,
Eje, veje, vaek
Ene, tene, mone, mei,
Pastor, lone, bone, strei,
Ene, fune, herke, berke,
Wer? Wie? Wo? Was?
Check out the printable lyrics. Click here to download.
"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" can be spelled in various ways and are mainly used to select a person in a game of tag or while choosing among multiple things.
The phrase “catch a tiger” can be replaced with catch a girl, a boy, any animal, or anything that fits the context.
There are several versions of this song with changed lyrics.
Origin and History
The rhyme has been used in various forms and languages even before 1820. The rhyme's history has been controversial because of its usage in racial and other contexts, which are not kid-friendly.
The exact origin of the song is unknown because it is widely used in different languages and countries. Many opine that the first line of this rhyme resembles both German and Cornish, while the two middle lines might have originated from America. It is part of many counting-out rhymes, popularly used in playground games since the early 19th century.
Many believe it originated from Ancient Celtic rituals of sorting out who would be chosen for sacrifice. The words might have come from the Celtic words for the numbers “one, two, three, four.”
It was used in "A Counting-Out Song", from Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1935. It has been used in several movies in inappropriate contexts as well. It has appeared in several literary works and musical endeavors over the centuries.
It also featured in the chorus of Bert Fitzgibbon's 1906 song, "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo". However, it had a racial slur so it is no longer used in that context.
It is a popular nursery rhyme and a counting song as well. It ends with rhyming syllables, and people use it to select/deselect a person in a game. It has a lot of relevance even in modern times.
The tiger will holler when his tail is touched. Holler means to give out a loud shout or cry.