Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word also known as ‘The Mockingbird Song’ is a sweet lullaby song perfect for making babies sleep. The song has been around for centuries and originated in the South of the United States.
The song is about a parent doing anything to quiet down a child or make them sleep. But that’s not all there is to know about the song.
Join me and learn more about the history of this song, sometimes called The Mocking Bird Lullaby.
The song has many verses comprising several gifts a parent will offer their child if they stay quiet and go to sleep.
You can add any gift or interchange papa with mama, provided the song maintains the rhyme and melody.
Lyrics for Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word as Sung Today
Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
And if that diamond ring turns to brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass.
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat.
And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.
And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.
And if that dog named Rover won’t bark,
Papa’s gonna buy you a horse and cart.
And if that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town!
So, hush, little baby, don’t you cry coz
Mama loves you, and so do I
Full Original Lyrics for Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word
It is unclear what the original lyrics of the song are. There’s a chance the first two lines in the modern version could have been from the original lyrics.
However, there’s no way to prove that since the original lyrics are undocumented. We discuss some of these variations in the who wrote the nursery rhyme section in this article up next.
THE HISTORY BEHIND HUSH LITTLE BABY DON’T SAY A WORD
Who Wrote the Nursery Rhyme Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word?
As with most nursery rhymes, the author and date of writing of Hush Little baby are unknown. However, versions of the song have been documented from as far back as 1918.
Here is one variant of the song from 1918 by Lucy Cannady of Virginia, United States.
Hush little Minnie, and don’t say a word, Papa’s going to buy you a mockingbird/ It can whistle, and it can sing, it can do most anything…”)
Here’s another that resembles today’s versions but with a few differences.
“Hush up, baby, don’t say a word…If it can’t whistle and it can’t sing, Papa’s going to buy you a diamond ring…”
The above variant is by Julia Boone of Micaville, North Carolina. These variants aren’t the original lyrics of Hush Little Baby. Instead, they are variants of the unknown original.
In the book, Cecil Sharps Collection of English Folk Songs are several versions of Hush Little Baby. These were gathered between 1916 and 1948 from mountain women in North Carolina and Virginia. He also included the Mocking Bird Song from Lucy Endicott of Virginia and Julie Boone of North Carolina in 1918.
Cecil Sharp’s collected versions, however, weren’t original. The song had existed long before he came along and notated the variations.
Since then the song has seen several artists produce versions of the song with the full lyrics. Each time these artists do that, they don’t take credit for the song lyrics. After all, it isn’t their song since it has existed for longer than most people know.
The Ritchie family, Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Mormon Tabernacle, and The Weavers, among other artists, have all recorded versions of the song with critical acclaim. Below is a video with the vocals of the version sung by Nina Simone.
What Theory Explains the Origin of Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word?
Though little is known about the song, it is thought it originated from the Southern states of the USA. The song is believed to have started as a lullaby enslaved people sang to the white children they were left to babysit.
The extent to which this is true is debatable. It doesn’t help that little is known about the song’s origin. It could all be a creation of people’s overactive imaginations or the truth handed down orally from generation to generation.
WHAT DO THE WORDS MEAN? DEFINITIONS:
What Does the Nursery Rhyme Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word Mean?
The song has no documented hidden meaning or deeper interpretation. However, there is speculation on its history. One theory says black enslaved nurses sang it to the white children they cared for.
The song mentions different gifts to the baby if they’ll stop crying and sleep. We can all agree a baby’s crying could drive a tired, nursing parent to do almost anything for their baby if it means they stop crying or go to sleep.
What Is the Meaning of Hush?
Hush is a kind way a parent requests a child to be quiet, similar to the word shush which means to be silent. In the song, the parent tells the baby to keep quiet and stop crying with the word.
Who’s a Little Baby?
An infant or any baby that needs lullabies to sleep is a little baby.
What is a Mocking Bird?
A mockingbird is a singing bird with a long tail that mimics or imitates the voices of other birds. The mockingbird can imitate the songs of other birds. That makes it significant as a pet a little baby would love. The bird will sing to the baby.
What’s a Diamond Ring?
A diamond ring is a hand-worn ornament made with that world-famous precious and expensive gem. Diamond rings are beloved for their shine.
What’s a Looking Glass?
A looking glass is a mirror. It is an old-school way of calling a mirror because it gives off someone’s reflection for them to look at. Mirrors were rarer and more expensive in the past.
What’s a Billy Goat?
A billy goat, or simply a billy, is a male goat.
INTERESTING FACTS & QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Does Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word Have a Dark Meaning?
I don’t think this song has any dark meaning. Some nursery rhymes do have some dark underlying meanings. Not this one, though.
There’s a thought that the song’s last line doesn’t mean what you think when you first read it. Some people say the crying baby is irritating to the parent and that they kill them by the end of the song.
That when the song says when you’ll still be the sweetest baby in town, it means the baby is dead at the hands of the parent. Again, this is a farfetched attempt to look for something dark where there isn’t any.
There isn’t any proof that’s the meaning of this song. If it had started creeping you out, then there’s no justification for your fear.
What Does the Line Little Baby Don’t Say a Word Mean?
Of course, babies can’t talk. But why would you have a line implying a baby is saying words? The line only serves to show the baby is making noise by crying. Telling the baby not to say a word is preempting and telling the baby not to cry or worry in advance because you will buy them anything they want, so they don’t need to cry!
The best guess is that the line is an innocuous way to make a play on words and rhyme for the song.
Is Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word in the Public Domain?
Yes, Hush Little Baby is in the public domain. That means that no one has the copyright to it and that if you want to use the song in your work, you can. It’s a song that was in existence before 1925.
Songs written before 1925 are usually all available in the public domain.
(Disclaimer: This is a general–not a legally confirmed fact, and you need to do more research into the laws in your jurisdiction/country to confirm you have the right to use this song)
BUT this does not apply to other people’s versions of it–for example, if you made a CD of you singing Hush Little Baby, your version is not public domain, and I cannot resell or use it without your permission.
How do You Sing Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word in Sign Language?
Below is a great resource video that will teach you how to sing Hush Little Baby in sign language.
HUSH LITTLE BABY DON’T SAY A WORD INSPIRED LESSON PLANS
The following is a selection of Lesson Plans based on the Hush Little Baby Nursery rhyme. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.
SHEET MUSIC FOR HUSH LITTLE BABY DON’T SAY A WORD
What is the Time Signature of Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word?
Hush Little Baby is played in the 4/4-time signature.
Can You Play Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word on An Instrument?
You can play Hush Little Baby on an instrument. Below are some resources to help you do that.