Historical & Current Events dictionary

rock-a-bye

or rockabye [rok-uh-bahy]

What does rock-a-bye mean?

Rockabye is a phrase from the folk lullaby "Rockabye Baby." 

It's also the title of a popular electronic song released in 2016 by Clean Bandit.

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Examples of rock-a-bye
Tomorrow’s my last day of paternity leave, if anyone wants to swing by and jam out to Rockabye Baby, maybe practice some swaddling #DadLife
@nealrogers, August, 2016
I heard “Rockabye” and absolutely fell in love with it. It’s such an incredible song—the fact that you can just dance to it and sounds really fun, but then the actual subject is about a single parent loving their child…it just blows my mind. I think more subjects like that need to be spoken about in music.
Anne-Marie quoted by Dale Kawashima , Songwriter Universe, September, 2018
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Where does rock-a-bye come from?
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Some people say that the original rhyme for the lullaby “Rock-a-bye Baby” was written all the way back in the 1500s … but it was first printed in Mother Goose’s Melody, a book of nursery rhymes, in 1765.

The word rock-a-bye calls up the rocking motion a caretaker might do when trying to get a baby to sleep as well as bye-bye, suggesting nursery talk for “good night.”

In 2016, the English electronic band Clean Bandit released their smash hit “Rockabye” featuring artists Sean Paul and Anne-Marie. It topped multiple international charts and, as of 2018, its video almost had 2 billion views on YouTube.

“Rockabye” is about a woman falling on hard times but still needing to provide for her child. The chorus goes something like this:

So, rockabye baby, rockabye
I’m gonna rock you
Rockabye baby, don’t you cry
Somebody’s got you.

People on Twitter that repost the lyrics agree that they didn’t expect to be crying in the club … but those lyrics are undeniable.

Who uses rock-a-bye?

Rock-a-bye is often used to mean the lullaby, “Rockabye Baby.” Rock-a-bye is also closely associated with lullabies and sweet dreams more generally.

The oddness of a nursery song about a cradle with a baby hurdling down to the ground being used as a lullaby isn’t lost on the internet, however.

Since “Rockabye” (2016 version) was such a big hit, it’s often talked about. It is seen as one of the breakout songs for singer Anne-Marie. People also love to post the text to its poignant lyrics on social media.

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Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of rock-a-bye like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of rock-a-bye that will help our users expand their word mastery.