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One for Sorrow (nursery rhyme)

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Subject: Eurasian Magpie, Counting Crows, Culture of the United Kingdom, List of nursery rhymes, A Murder of One, One for Sorrow
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One for Sorrow (nursery rhyme)

"One for Sorrow"
Roud #20096
Written by Traditional
Published c. 1780
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme
For other uses, see One for Sorrow.

"One for Sorrow" is a traditional children's nursery rhyme about magpies. According to an old superstition, the number of magpies one sees determines whether one will have bad luck or not. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 20096.


There is considerable variation in the lyrics used. The following is perhaps the most common modern version:

Version A
One for sorrow,

Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,

Seven for a secret never to be told.

This particular version is used in the Counting Crows song "A Murder of One."

In Ireland, it is common to recite "Five for a wedding".

Version B
One for sorrow

Two for mirth
Three for a funeral
Four for a birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell

Seven's the Devil his own self

The last line may be split and abbreviated as Seven's the De'il / his ane sel', which rhymes. Both versions above feature prominently in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum.

Sometimes (but rarely), three extra lines are added:

Eight for a wish

Nine for a kiss

Ten for a bird that you won't want to miss.


Eight for a wish

Nine for a kiss

Ten for a time of Joyous Bliss

as the former is believed to have been written especially for the television show's credits.

Version C

In Yorkshire the Magpie Rhyme is as follows:

One for Sorrow

Two for Joy
Three for a Girl
Four for a Boy
Five for Silver
Six for Gold
Seven for a tale never to be told
Eight you Live
Nine you Die

Ten you eat a bogey pie!
Version D

In Warwickshire the rhyme is:

One brings Sorrow

Two bring Joy
Three a Girl
And Four a Boy
Five bring Want
And Six bring Gold
Seven bring secrets never told
Eight bring wishing
Nine bring kissing

Ten, the love my own heart's missing!
Version E

The version proposed by Maddy Prior in the popular folk song 'Magpie' is as follows;

One for Sorrow

Two for Joy
Three for a Wedding
Four for a Boy
Five for a Fiddler
Six for a Dance
Seven for Old England

and Eight for France
Version F (Manchester)
One for Sorrow

Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten a surprise you should be careful not to miss
Eleven for health
Twelve for wealth

Thirteen beware it's the devil himself.
Version G (The London 2013 WotY Version)
One for Sorrow

Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Eight for platinum
Nine for gin

Ten for a colleague too drunk to come in!


The rhyme has its origins in superstitions connected with magpies, considered a bird of ill omen in some cultures, and in Britain, at least as far back as the early sixteenth century.[2] The rhyme was first recorded around 1780 in a note in John Brand's Observations on Popular Antiquitites on Lincolnshire with the lyric:

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
And four for death.[2]

One of the earliest versions to extend this was published, with variations, in M. A. Denham's Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons (London, 1846):

One for sorrow,
Two for luck; (or mirth)
Three for a wedding,
Four for death; (or birth)
Five for silver,
Six for gold;
Seven for a secret,
Not to be told;
Eight for heaven,
Nine for [hell]
And ten for the d[evi]l's own sell![2]

On occasion, jackdaws, crows, and other Corvidae are associated with the rhyme, particularly in America where magpies are less common.[3]



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