Miss Polly Had a Dolly Nursery Rhyme- Lyrics, History, Video, Lesson Plans & More

Miss Polly Had a Dolly is a nursery rhyme about a girl’s love for her doll. The song has mysterious beginnings, and little is known about how it came to be.

Let’s look at the little there is to know about the song.


Lyrics for Miss Polly Had a Dolly as Sung Today

The song has only two verses sung repeatedly.

Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick
And she called for the doctor to come quick, quick, quick
The doctor came with his bag and his hat
And he knocked at the door with a rat-a-tat-tat

He looked at the dolly, and he shook his head
And he said, “Miss Polly, put her straight to bed”
He wrote on a paper for a pill, pill, pill
I’ll be back in the morning if the baby’s still ill

Some versions use I’ll be back in the morning with a bill bill for the last line.

It is important to note, that the doctor can also be sung as a female character – the doctor came with her bag and her hat for example and even Miss Polly can be changed to John-Paul .

Full Original Lyrics for Miss Polly Had a Dolly

There are no original recordings of the song. Therefore, there aren’t any lyrics we can call the original. The song could have remained unchanged ever since people first sang it.

However, most nursery rhymes change with time. Therefore, there’s a chance there are earlier lyric versions we don’t know about, or that disappeared in the mists of time.


Who Wrote the Nursery Rhyme Miss Polly Had a Dolly?

Unfortunately, the original author of this famous rhyme is unknown. The song has been around for years, which makes it challenging to track the original writer.

It’s impossible to know for a fact the events that inspired the song’s writing.

We know very little of the song and its origins. Of course, it wasn’t a spontaneous occurrence. The song could have survived by being passed on orally from earlier times.

The prevailing thinking is that the song could be from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Not even famous books reference the song in any way, which is somewhat strange for a famous song.

Fortunately, we don’t have to know the author of a song to enjoy it. We can only be glad that they thought to write the song, and we get the chance to share and enjoy it.


What Does the Nursery Rhyme Miss Polly Had a Dolly Mean?

The rhyme talks of a little girl and her love for her doll who gets sick and so needs a doctor’s visit and a prescription for medicine.

It might have been created as a story following a child playing and pretending or could have been sung by a loving adult recreating through play the social experience of seeing a doctor.

Therefore, it is a song meant to entertain children and teach them about the experience of a doctor’s visit.

What is a Dolly?

A dolly is a childish or cute name for a doll.

The main character’s name is Polly, so it makes sense if she has a dolly instead of just a doll. Dolly and Polly rhyme nicely.

What Is the Difference Between a Pill and a Bill?

A pill is a medicine in the form of a small tablet that is swallowed whole. So, when a doctor prescribes medicine for a patient, you say they prescribed some pills.

A bill is a statement of the money owed. In the song, the doctor says they’ll return with the bill. That means they’ll return with a statement of what Miss Polly owes financially for the doctor’s visit.


Who Was Miss Polly?

In the song, Miss Polly is a little girl with a doll she loves so much that she calls a doctor to examine it when she thinks it is sick.

There’s nothing to show the song refers to an actual person. And if you were thinking the song refers to a historical person, then I have to disappoint you. Miss Polly doesn’t refer to anyone, past or present. It is only a name picked for how it rhymes with the word dolly. That is a character you’d call fictional since the song isn’t based on actual events.

Is Miss Polly Had a Dolly an Action or Nonsense Rhyme?

Miss Polly Had a Dolly is a rhyme that includes actions. That makes it an action rhyme. You can accompany words such as phoning the doctor or knocking on the door with their corresponding actions.

But besides being an action rhyme, the song is also a nonsense rhyme. It has no deep meaning and mentions impossible actions. No doctor would answer a call out to treat a doll.

It’s also implausible to have a little girl call a doctor because her doll is sick. They can put a doll to sleep, but it wouldn’t be sleeping!

This stretching of events makes the song a nonsense rhyme. None of the actions in the song make sense or can happen in reality.

So, Miss Polly Had a Dolly is both an action and nonsense rhyme.

Are Miss Polly Had a Dolly and Miss Lucy Had a Baby the Same Songs?

Miss Lucy Had a Baby resembles Miss Polly Had a Dolly right from the title. However, they aren’t the same songs.

Miss Lucy is a schoolyard game, often involved in a clapping game. That’s not the same for Miss Polly though it’s also an action rhyme.

Miss Lucy has known origins that don’t relate to Miss Polly in any way.

The lyrics might be close, but they aren’t the same, and the two songs also use different tunes. Additionally, the subject matter in each of the rhymes is different.

However, we can’t argue that either of them inspired the other.

Miss Lucy Had a Baby also mentions the calling of a doctor, though that’s alongside a nurse. It is also comparably longer than Miss Polly Had a Dolly, thanks to the various verses in the lyrics.

Is Miss Polly Had a Dolly In the Public Domain?

Miss Polly Had a Dolly is a public domain nursery rhyme since no one can claim they own the song. That means you can use it in your work.

Songs copyrighted before 1925 are usually in the public domain. For this song, no one knows when it was first copyrighted.

(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 ensure you have the right to use this song)

However, other people’s versions of the song are not in the public domain. What’s in the public domain is the tune and spine of the song.

For example, if you made a version of this song even without a completely different tune and new lines, I can’t use your versions without your permission.

It is best to confirm with local authorities regarding copyright rules before using any song version in your work.

How Do You Sing Miss Polly Had a Dolly in Sign Language?

You can sing the song in sign language. Below is a YouTube resource to help you with that.

Miss Polly Had a Dolly Inspired Activities and Lesson Plans

The following is a selection of Lesson Plans based on Miss Dolly Had a Dolly. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.

Sheet Music for Miss Polly Had a Dolly

What Is the Time Signature of Miss Polly Had a Dolly?

Miss Polly Had a Dolly has a time signature of 4/4. It is a rather simple song to sing and play.

Can You Play Miss Polly Had a Dolly on An Instrument?

You can play Miss Polly Had a Dolly on an instrument with any of the below YouTube resources.


Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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