Lulla, lulla, lullaby

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Senior Member
 Philomel, with melody
 Sing in our sweet lullaby.
Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby.
 Never harm
 Nor spell nor charm
 Come our lovely lady nigh.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
by Shakespeare

Are Lulla, lulla, lullaby meaningless sounds in this context?
Please help. Thank you.
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    "Lullaby" is obviously not a meaningless sound - it means a song you sing softly to help a baby get to sleep, and "lulla" is the first two syllables of it. It is a song, and would be an equivalent to a song of today with a refrain of:
    "Baby you're so beau- beau - beautiful!"


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Lulla, lullay, lully, are all variants of lullaby.
    According to the OED, the example in post #1 is the first recorded example of "lullaby". The others had been around for a hundred years or so before.

    Think of words like "rockabye" or "hushabye" - other words where the "bye" suffix is added. And so we get "Bye bye lully lullay" in the Coventry Carol, recorded from the early sixteenth century.

    [Edit. When I say "recorded from the early sixteenth century, I'm not using "recorded" in the audio sense normally used today :D]
    Last edited:
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