A limerick is a silly poem with five lines.  They are often funny or nonsensical.

Limericks were made famous by Edward Lear, a famous author who wrote the “Book of Nonsense” in the 1800’s.  This was an entire book of silly limericks.


How to write a limerick?

The first, second and fifth lines rhyme with each other and have the same number of syllables (typically 8 or 9).
The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other and have the same number of syllables (typically 5 or 6)
Limericks often start with the line “There once was a…” or “There was a…”

Example of an 8,8,5,5,8 syllable limerick:


Limericks acquired widespread popularity in the early years of the 20th century, and limerick contests were often held by magazines and business houses. Many variations of the form were developed, as can be seen in the following tongue twister:

A tutor who taught on the flute

Tried to teach two tooters to toot.

Said the two to the tutor,

“Is it harder to toot, or

To tutor two tooters to toot?”

Limericks by Edward Lear

There was an Old Man in a Tree

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, ‘Does it buzz?’
He replied, ‘Yes, it does!’
‘It’s a regular brute of a Bee!’

There was an Old Man of Marseilles

There was an Old Man of Marseilles,
Whose daughters wore bottle-green veils;
They caught several Fish,
Which they put in a dish,
And sent to their dad at Marseilles.

There was an Old Man of Quebec

There was an Old Man of Quebec,
A beetle ran over his neck;
But he cried, ‘With a needle,
I’ll slay you, O beetle!’
That angry Old Man of Quebec.

There was an Old Man Who Supposed

There was an Old Man who supposed,
That the street door was partially closed;
But some very large rats,
Ate his coats and his hats,
While that futile old gentleman dozed.

There was an Old Man with a Beard

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared! —
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.”

There was an Old Man with a Flute

There was an Old Man with a flute,
A serpent ran into his boot;
But he played day and night,
Till the serpent took flight,
And avoided that man with a flute.

Nursery Rhymes as Limericks



While you may not have heard of many of the above examples, you likely have heard some of the more commonly known limerick examples in the nursery rhymes we all love so much.


Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet

Sat on a tuffet,

Eating her curds and whey;

Along came a spider,

Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away.


Perhaps one of the most famous limericks of all time is Mary had a Little Lamb, which is actually two limericks in one as a 10-line poem:

Mary had a little lamb,

Its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,

The lamb was sure to go.

He followed her to school one day,

That was against the rule.

It made the children laugh and play,

To see a lamb at school.

New Limericks

New limericks are still being written today. For example, the Nickelodeon TV show Spongebob Squarepants featured a limerick that went:

There was an old man from Peru

Who dreamt he was eating his shoe.

He awoke in a fright

In the middle of the night

And found it was perfectly true.

There was an odd fellow named Gus,
When travelling he made such a fuss.
He was banned from the train,
Not allowed on a plane,
And now travels only by bus.

There once was a farmer from Leeds,
Who swallowed a packet of seeds.
It soon came to pass,
He was covered with grass,
But has all the tomatoes he needs.

There was a young lady of Cork,
Whose Pa made a fortune in pork.
He bought for his daughter,
A tutor who taught her,
To balance green peas on her fork.


A painter, who lived in Great Britain,
Interrupted two girls with their knitting,
He said, with a sigh,
That park bench–well I,
Just painted it, right where you’re sitting.

There was a young lady of Kent,
Whose nose was most awfully bent.
She followed her nose,
One day, I suppose,
And no one knows which way she went.



There was a Young Lady whose eyes,
Were unique as to colour and size;
When she opened them wide,
People all turned aside,
And started away in surprise.