a kind of humorous verse of five lines, in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines, which are shorter, form a rhymed couplet.

Origin of limerick

1895–1900; after Limerick; allegedly from social gatherings where the group sang “Will you come up to Limerick?” after each set of verses, extemporized in turn by the members of the party




a county in N Munster, in the SW Republic of Ireland. 037 sq. mi. (2686 sq. km).
its county seat: a seaport at the head of the Shannon estuary.
Angling. a fishhook having a sharp bend below the barb. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for limerick

Contemporary Examples of limerick

  • No alarms were triggered as she strolled out of the Giant supermarket in Limerick, Pennsylvania, and nobody thought otherwise.

  • I was born in Limerick city but grew up in a small town in County Donegal—remote, windy, lots of rain.

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    How I Write: Paul Lynch

    Noah Charney

    December 18, 2013

  • And I was trying to illustrate that with a more familiar example, which would be something like the repetition of a limerick.

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    Rediscovering Richard Dawkins: An Interview

    J.P. O’Malley

    September 23, 2013

  • He was taken to a place in Ireland called Limerick where he suffered undue hardships as opposed to due hardships.

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    We Miserable Catholics

    Frank McCourt

    December 19, 2008

Historical Examples of limerick

British Dictionary definitions for limerick



a form of comic verse consisting of five anapaestic lines of which the first, second, and fifth have three metrical feet and rhyme together and the third and fourth have two metrical feet and rhyme together

Word Origin for limerick

C19: allegedly from will you come up to Limerick?, a refrain sung between nonsense verses at a party



a county of SW Republic of Ireland, in N Munster province: consists chiefly of an undulating plain with rich pasture and mountains in the south. County town: Limerick. Pop: 175 304 (2002). Area: 2686 sq km (1037 sq miles)
a port in SW Republic of Ireland, county town of Limerick, at the head of the Shannon estuary. Pop: 86 998 (2002)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for limerick

nonsense verse of five lines, 1896, perhaps from the county and city in Ireland, but if so the connection is obscure. Often (after OED's Murray) attributed to a party game in which each guest in turn made up a nonsense verse and all sang a refrain with the line "Will you come up to Limerick?" but he reported this in 1898 and earlier evidence is wanting. Or perhaps from Learic, from Edward Lear (1812-1888) English humorist who popularized the form. Earliest examples are in French, which further complicates the quest for the origin. OED's first record of the word is in a letter of Aubrey Beardsley. The place name is literally "bare ground," from Irish Liumneach, from lom "bare, thin." It was famous for hooks.

The limerick may be the only traditional form in English not borrowed from the poetry of another language. Although the oldest known examples are in French, the name is from Limerick, Ireland. John Ciardi suggests that the Irish Brigade, which served in France for most of the eighteenth centiry, might have taken the form to France or developed an English version of a French form. ... The contemporary limerick usually depends on a pun or some other turn of wit. It is also likely to be somewhat suggestive or downright dirty." [Miller Williams, "Patterns of Poetry," Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1986]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for limerick


A form of humorous five-line verse, such as:

There once was a young man from Kew
Who found a dead mouse in his stew.
Said the waiter, “Don't shout
Or wave it about,
Or the rest will be wanting one too!”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.