Who Was Humpty Dumpty, Where Did the Nursery Rhyme Come From, and What Does It Mean?

The nursery rhyme in which “Humpty Dumpty has a great fall” dates back to 1493 and refers to King Richard III of England.

Richard had a hump on his back and had been dumped by his mount in the thick of battle when he cried, “My kingdom for a horse” before being slain.

The last line, “Couldn’t put Humpty together again,” was originally “Couldn’t put Humpty up again,” meaning back on his horse.

The nursery rhyme has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 13026.

The lyrics are as follows.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

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  • David Miles

    As with many old sayings there are more than one explanation.
    A short, large diameter Cannon mounted on the wall of Edinburgh Castle was nicknamed “Humpty Dumpty.” It was destroyed when it fell off the wall.
    This is a more likely origin of the nursery rhyme, but the name might have originated from the humpback king Richard the Third, so both theories could have a part in the origin.
    What is a mystery is how Humpty Dumpty came to be painted as an egg! Lewis Carroll’s illustrator may have the answer to that.