1 February


Frère Jacques is a traditional French children's song with lyrics dating from the 18th century.

The story of the song

Frère Jacques is arguably the most famous French children's song. it is known throughout the world and has been translated into many languages.

According to the historian and musicologist Sylvie Bouissou, the song was long considered anonymous, but recent research argued it was written by Jean-Philippe Rameau in the 18th century.

For Francesca Draughon and Raymond Knapp, "Frère Jacques" was originally a song to ridicule Jews, Protestants or Martin Luther.

Other scholars, such as Martine David and A. Marie Delrieu, suggest that "Frère Jacques" might have been created to mock the Dominican friars. They were known in France for their sloth and comfortable lifestyles.

The song was first published in the Recueil de Capelle, a collection of songs from 1811.

What is the song about?

The lyrics of the song refer to "les matines".

For Catholics, the first prayer of the liturgical day was called "les matines". The first morning prayer was intended to sanctify the time of night. 

A monk had to ring the bells in the middle or end of the night - hence the mention of a sleepy friar Jacques who overslept!

But why is the monk sleeping peacefully instead of ringing the bells calling for morning prayer?

Some believe that he may have had a little too much wine from the mass the night before!

True or not, you can use your imagination to guess why Friar Jacques doesn't wake up so much!

Frère Jacques

Frère Jacques

Lyrics, music, free download... let's learn more about the popular song:

Frère Jacques

The lyrics in French

The original song of Frère Jacques has one verse. The rhyme is traditionally sung in a round (canon in French).


Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques

Dormez-vous ? Dormez-vous ?

Sonnez les matines. Sonnez les matines.

Ding, daing, dong ! Ding, daing, dong !

Translation of the lyrics into English

Here is an approximative translation into English:


Brother Jacques, Brother Jacques,
Are you asleep? Are you asleep?
Ring out matins! Ring out matins!
Ding, daing, dong! Ding, daing, dong!

Other adaptations of the song

The French nursery rhyme has the distinction of having been translated into many languages. English, German, Italian and even Chinese, learn more about the different versions of the song.

English 🇬🇧

The song is known in English as Brother John or Are you sleeping:

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

German 🇩🇪

The song is known in German as Bruder Jakob:

Bruder Jakob, Bruder Jakob,
Schläfst du noch? Schläfst du noch?
Hörst du nicht die Glocken? Hörst du nicht die Glocken?
Ding dang dong. Ding dang dong.

Italian 🇮🇹

The song is known in Italian as Fra Martino:

Fra Martino, campanaro,
Dormi tu? Dormi tu?
Suona le campane! Suona le campane!
Din, don, dan! Din, don, dan!

Download the Lyrics for FREE!

No need to type name or email 😀

Frère Jacques © French Moments

French Nursery Rhymes

My challenge for the year 2023 is to publish 80 French Nursery Rhymes lyrics and descriptions (list below). Come back as time goes by to discover the new articles:

French Nursery Rhymes Cover by French Moments
French Nursery Rhymes
A la claire fontaine © French Moments
Ah ! dis-moi donc bergère © French Moments
Ah ! Les crocodiles © French Moments
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman © French Moments
Ainsi font, font, font © French Moments
Alouette gentille alouette © French Moments
Au clair de la lune © French Moments
Au feu les pompiers © French Moments
Au royaume de Diguedondaine © French Moments
Auprès de ma blonde © French Moments
Aux marches du palais © French Moments
Blanc Blanc Blanc belle rose © French Moments
Bon voyage Monsieur Dumollet © French Moments
Buvons un coup ma serpette est perdue © French Moments
C'est la mère Michel © French Moments
C'était Anne de Bretagne © French Moments
Cadet Rousselle © French Moments
Car c’est un bon camarade © French Moments
Chère Élise © French Moments
Chevaliers de la table ronde © French Moments
Colchiques dans les prés © French Moments
Compagnons de la Marjolaine © French Moments
Dame Tartine © French Moments
Dans les prisons de Nantes © French Moments
Dansons la capucine © French Moments
Dodo, l'enfant do © French Moments
En passant par la Lorraine © French Moments
Fais dodo © French Moments
Fleur d’épine © French Moments
Frère Jacques © French Moments
Gentil coquelicot © French Moments
Il court, il court, le furet © French Moments
Il était un petit cordonnier © French Moments
Il était un petit navire © French Moments
Il était une bergère © French Moments
Il pleut, il pleut, bergère © French Moments
J'ai du bon tabac © French Moments
J'ai un gros nez rouge © French Moments
J'fais pipi sur le gazon © French Moments
Je te tiens par la barbichette © French Moments
Joyeux anniversaire © French Moments
La bonne aventure ô gué © French Moments
La danse des canards © French Moments
La légende de saint Nicolas © French Moments
Le bon roi Dagobert © French Moments
Le carillon de Vendôme © French Moments
Le coucou © French Moments
Le facteur n'est pas passé © French Moments
Le fermier dans son pré © French Moments
Le temps des cerises © French Moments
Le temps du muguet © French Moments
Le vieux MacDonald © French Moments
Les filles de La Rochelle © French Moments
Maman les p'tits bateaux © French Moments
Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre © French Moments
Meunier, tu dors © French Moments
Mignonne allons voir si la rose © French Moments
Mon âne © French Moments
Mon père m'a donné un mari © French Moments
Ne pleure pas Jeannette © French Moments
Nous n'irons plus au bois © French Moments
Ô gai, vive la rose © French Moments
Passe passe passera © French Moments
Pirouette Cacahuète © French Moments
Plantons la vigne © French Moments
Pomme de reinette et pomme d'api © French Moments
Pomme, pêche, poire, abricot © French Moments
Promenons-nous dans les bois © French Moments
Savez-vous planter les choux ? © French Moments
Sur la route de Dijon © French Moments
Sur la route de Louviers © French Moments
Sur le pont d'Avignon © French Moments
Sur le pont du nord © French Moments
Tout va très bien madame la marquise © French Moments
Trois jeunes tambours © French Moments
Un éléphant ça trompe énormément © French Moments
Un kilomètre à pied © French Moments
Un, deux, trois, nous irons au bois © French Moments
Une chanson douce © French Moments
Une poule sur un mur © French Moments
Une souris verte © French Moments
V'la le bon vent © French Moments
Voici le mois de mai © French Moments
Y avait dix filles dans un pré © French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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