Last Updated: 9 February 2023

Maman les petits bateaux (also known as Maman les p'tits bateaux) is a French children's song dating from the late 19th century.

The story of the song

Maman les petits bateaux is a children's rhyme first referenced in the novel Peter Ibbetson (1891) by the French-born British writer George du Maurier (1834-1896).

Waterway holidays in Lorraine - Marina of Toul © French Moments

Port de France in Toul © French Moments

The song that inspired a clothing brand

You may know the French children's clothing brand "Petit Bateau"?

Legend has it that Pierre Valton, the founder, came up with the name Petit Bateau after hearing his son humming this nursery rhyme.

Maman les petits bateaux

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

Maman les petits bateaux

The lyrics in French

The original song of Maman les petits bateaux has 1 chorus and 1 verse and optionally a second chorus.

Refrain 1

Maman les petits bateaux
Qui vont sur l’eau
Ont-ils des jambes ?
Mais oui, mon gros bêta
S'ils n'en avaient pas,

Ils ne marcheraient pas


Allant droit devant eux, 

Ils font le tour du monde

Mais comme la terre est ronde,

Ils reviennent chez eux.

Refrain 2

Maman les petits bateaux
Qui vont sur l'eau
Ont-ils une âme ?
Mais oui, mon gros bêta
S'ils n'en avaient pas,

Ils n'avanceraient pas !

Translation of the lyrics into English

Here is an approximative translation into English:

Chorus 1

Mummy the little boats
That go on the water
Do they have legs?
Yes, they do, my big silly
If they didn't,
They wouldn't walk


Going straight ahead,
They go around the world
But as the earth is round,
They return home.

Chorus 2

Mama the little boats
That go on the water
Do they have a soul?
Yes, they do, my big silly
If they didn't,
They wouldn't move on!

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Maman les petits bateaux

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:

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 Discovery Courses and books about France.

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