15 Famous Limericks:  When Only the Most Familiar Limericks Will Do!

If you have spent any time with us, you already know that famous limericks date back to the 14th century, were passed down by word of mouth, were a source of merriment in drinking establishments in Ireland and other parts of Europe.

Irish Expressions: Famous Irish Limericks.  Image of laughing leprechan, courtesy of Bigstock.

As with many other Irish sayings, limericks were frequently used to shine a humorous light on difficult or uncomfortable topics.

If you would like to know more about these witty little poems and where they came from, visit our main section on Irish limericks here!

In the meantime, let's have a look at some of the most famous of them!

6 Simple Famous Limericks

Many of the older limericks are very simple and straightforward with the subject of the first line basically repeated in the last line. While they aren't necessarily the most creative examples, they are easy to remember (and relatively easy to create!)

There was an Old Man of Kilkenny

Who never had more than a penny

He spent all that money

In onions and honey

That wayward old man of Kilkenny.

- Anonymous

There was an old person of Down

Whose face was adorned with a frown

When he opened the door, for one minute or more

He alarmed all the people of Down.

- Edward Lear

There was an Old Derry down Derry

Who loved to see little folks merry

So he made them a book

And with laughter they shook

At the fun of that Derry down Derry.

- Edward Lear

There was an old person of Dundalk

Who tried to teach fishes to walk

When they tumbled down dead, he grew weary, and said

“I had better go back to Dundalk!”

- Edward Lear

There was a young man of Killarney

Who was chock full of what is called blarney

He would sit on a stile

And tell lies by the mile

Would this dreadful young man of Killarney.

- Edward Lear

There was an old man with a beard

Who said, "It is just as I feared!"

Two owls and a hen

For larks and a Wren

Have all built their nests in my beard!

- Edward Lear

5 More Famous  Limericks:  The Next Level

The next level of quality in a limerick (in our humble opinion) is the one where the subject of the first and the last line are DIFFERENT, but related in a clever way. Here are five famous examples:

There once was a young man named Sean

Who wished from a sly leprechaun

To be surrounded by dough

He wanted it so

In six months he was born as a fawn.

- Anonymous

A man while drinking Light Bud

Crashed his car with a sickening thud

The car that he hit

Had a warlock in it

Now he lives as a frog in the mud.

- Anonymous

There once was a man from Nantucket

Who kept all his cash in a bucket

His daughter named Nan

Ran away with a man

But as for his bucket, Nantucket

- Princeton Tiger

A dozen, a gross and a score

Plus three times the square root of four

Divided by seven

Plus five times eleven

Is nine squared and not a bit more!

- Leigh Mercer

There was a young bell of old Natchez

Whose garments were always in patchez

When comments arose

On the state of her clothes

She replied 'When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez."

-  Ogden Nash

4 More Famous Limericks:  Humor from Sensitive Topics

Finally, our favorite famous limericks combine the core structure of these little poems, with a creative approach and an irreverent attitude. Have a look a these:

You’ve conquered the aging disease

That brings lesser men to their knees

You’re a vigorous man

And you’ve proved you still can

Blow your candles with only one wheeze.

- Anonymous

I am sorry to hear, Smiling Jill,

That your birthday’s no longer a thrill

All your friends think you’re great

And should still celebrate-

You’re not old, you’re just over the hill.

- Anonymous

There was a young lady of Norway

Who hung by her toes in a doorway

She said to her beau

Just look at me Joe

I think I've discovered one more way!

- Algernon Charles Swinburne

God's plan made a hopeful beginning

But man spoiled his chances by sinning

We trust that the story

Will end with God's glory

But at present the other side's winning

- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Want More Famous Limericks?

You've come to the right place!

We have many, many more examples - and you can gain access to all of them in our section on Irish Limerick Poems.

There you will find hundreds of examples of limericks organized into useful categories, making it simple to find what you are looking for.

Express Your Irish Side With Real Irish Gifts

A note from Bruce:

My friend Stuart Marley and his wife Meredith are the founders of Real Irish Gifts and Travel, one of the finest Irish-themed businesses I have encountered. They have been operating since 1999. 

Members of the Irish Expressions community (that's you!) get 15% off anything in their online store, 365 days a year.  Simply click on the link below and receive your discount automatically at checkout.  Enjoy!

Want to Feel More Connected to Ireland?  Here's How!

At Irish Expressions we believe everybody – well almost everybody! - has an "Irish side."  So how nice would it be to have access to a fun, free Irish experience, on demand, wherever in the world you happen to be?

Over the years we have compiled many free, downloadable resources including lyrics, recipes, games, jokes, blessings and much, much more.  

Would you like to receive them ALL for FREE?  Simply share your email for instant access!


* indicates required