Rock a Bye Baby Song Origin and Meaning

"Rock a Bye Baby" is a popular nursery rhyme and cradle song for the babies and toddlers, which was first published in 1765. Like many other traditional nursery rhymes, the author of the rhyme is not known. It is sung in the melody similar to the satirical ballad, 'Lillibullero'. "Rock a Bye Baby" has achieved great popularity. Different versions of the nursery rhyme have been discovered. The first version was printed in 'Mother Goose's Melody' in 1765. Another version was published in 'Songs for the Nursery' in 1765.

The lyrics to the modern version of the song:

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Origin and meaning

Various theories have been advanced to explain the origins of the poem.

One of the theory recognizes the rhyme as the first poem composed on American soil, by an English immigrant in the 17th century. He got an idea of writing the lyrics when he observed that native-American women rocked their little babies in birch-bark cradles. These cradles were hanging on tree branches, thus allowing the gentle breeze to rock the babies and put them to sleep.

Another theory explains that the lullaby narrates a mother gently rocking and cuddling as if the baby is riding the treetops during the breeze and lull the baby to sleep. And when she lowers her baby to the crib, the song says, "down will come baby."

As per the local legend in Derbyshire, England, "Rock a Bye Baby" is related to a character named Betty Kenny (Kate Kenyon), who resided with her husband and eight children in a huge yew tree, where a hollowed bough was used as a cradle. However, this "late 1700s" date is incompatible with the poem's appearance in print c. 1765.

One of the theories associated the origin of lullaby to events that appeared before the Glorious Revolution. The baby is referred to the son of James VII and II (King of Scotland as James VII and King of Ireland and England as James II), who was widely believed to be someone else's child smuggled into the birthing room in order to provide a Roman Catholic heir for James. The "Wind" is supposed to be the Protestant "wind" coming from the Netherlands and carrying along James' (nephew and son-in-law William of Orange), who would eventually throw out King James II in the revolution. And the "cradle" is referred to the royal House of Stuart.

Another theory suggests rhyme began as a "dandling" rhyme, which was used while moving a child up and down in an affectionate way.


This one of the popular lullabies, nursery rhymes and kids' songs are perfectly designed to keep the little ones entertained. Sing for joy or to lull little ones to sleep!!!