Words To Twinkle Twinkle Little Star In French + original French version (audio)

a shooting star flying over the Eiffel tower in Paris

What do Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, The Alphabet Song, and Baa-Baa Black Sheep have in common? They all use the same catchy tune borrowed from an old French melody over 280 years old. Here are the lyrics to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in French and English with audio and the original French song children used to sing to the same melody, long before Twinkle, Twinkle Little star was even written. 

A brief history of the lullaby Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is a famous lullaby with straightforward lyrics and a catchy melody.

But have you ever wondered who wrote it or pondered over its meaning? What about the catchy tune? Why does it sound exactly like the A-B-C alphabet song? 

Who wrote Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

The words to the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” are based on an English poem called “The Star,” written by a 23-year-old English poet and novelist named Jane Taylor in collaboration with her sister Ann Taylor. “The Star” was first published in 1806 in a volume of children’s poems by the two sisters called  “Rhymes for the Nursery.”

Below, on pages 10 and 11, is the original children’s poem from that volume. 

the poem "The Star" by Jane Taylor in an old book called Rhymes for the Nursery (1806)

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’s melody is borrowed from a 280-year-old French melody.

The catchy tune associated with Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is set to an old French Folk song called “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” (Oh! Shall I tell you, mommy). 

Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” (Oh! Shall I tell you, mommy)

The French melody “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman” was first published without words in 1761 in a book of music called “Les Amusements d’une Heure et Demy by Mr. Bouin.

But Mr. Bouin didn’t write the French song. According to French historian Henri-Irénée Marrou, the origins of the French melody that Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star uses is an anonymous pastoral song dating back to 1740 making it over 280 years old. 

Les Amusements d’une Heure et Demy 1761

The year that Jane Taylor’s poem “The Star” was set to music.

No one knows for sure when the “The Star” was set to music using the French melody “Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman” however, they were first published together (lyrics and music) as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in 1838 in “The Singing Master: First Class Tune-Book.” 

French children sang a different song to the same tune nearly 50 years earlier.

Nearly 50 years before the sisters Jane and Ann Taylor wrote their famous poem “The star,” which later became “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” French children sang different words with a different story to the same catchy tune. 

The earliest known children’s lyrics and poems attached to the French melody”Ah! Vous dirai-je” was around 1765 with a poem called “Le Faux Pas.” 

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Folk music has a rich history of taking a single melody and attaching new lyrics with different stories or meanings.

Below is the original poem set to music. I also included the lyrics and a translation of the original poem “le Faux pas.” 

The French poem “Le faux pas” is about a boy telling his mother how his father’s varied demands torment him, but the boy thinks candy is worth more. 

FRENCH MELODY: AH! Vous dirai-je, maman
FRENCH POEM: Le Faux Pas
FRENCH LYRICS ENGLISH TRANSLATION
   
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman, Oh! Shall I tell you, mommy,
Ce qui cause mon tourment. What causes my torment?
Papa veut que je raisonne, Daddy wants me to reason
Comme une grande personne. Like a grown-up person
Moi, je dis que les bonbons Me, I say that candy
Valent mieux que la raison. Are worth more than reason
   
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman, Oh! Shall I tell you, mommy,
ce qui cause mon tourment. What causes my torment?
Papa veut que je demande Daddy wants me to ask
de la soupe et de la viande… For soup and meat …
Moi, je dis que les bonbons Me, I say that candy
valent mieux que les mignons. Are worth more than tenderloin.
   
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman, Oh! Shall I tell you, mommy,
ce qui cause mon tourment What causes my torment?
Papa veut que je retienne Daddy wants me to remember
des verbes la longue antienne… Verbs of ancient languages
Moi, je dis que les bonbons Me, I say that candy
valent mieux que les leçons. Are worth more than lessons.

Popular Songs That have borrowed from the original French melody “Ah! vous dirai-je, maman.”

Many more songs share the same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, all borrowing from the original French melody “Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman”. 

The ones you probably know the best are the ABC song and Baa Baa, Black Sheep. Here is a timeline of some of the most well-known songs and when they became associated with the French melody Ah! vous dirai-je, maman.

  • 1765: “Le Faux Pas” (lyrics are listed above)
  • 1774: “La Confidence-Naive” (a parody of the lyrics “Le Faux Pas.”)
  • 1780: “Les Amours de Silvandre”
  • 1781 or 1782: when Mozart was about 25 years old, he popularized the now-famous French folk song when he composed Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman.”
  • 1824: A B C D E F G (aka “The ABC Song”) first published in Germany
  • 1834: A B C D E F G (aka “The ABC Song”) published in the USA as “The Schoolmaster.”
  • 1838: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star aka “The Star” poem.
  • 1878: Baa, Baa, Black Sheep is sung to a variation of the French tune. 

European Christmas songs that share the same melody as “Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman”.

  • German Christmas carol “Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann”
  • Hungarian Christmas carol “Hull a pelyhes fehér hó”
  • Dutch “Altijd is Kortjakje ziek”
  • Spanish “Campanita del lugar”
  • Greek “Φεγγαράκι μου λαμπρό”
  • Turkish “Daha Dün Annemizin”

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH

The title of The French version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is called “Brille, brille, petite étoile” (Shine, shine, little star.) 

Below is a video with music of Brille, brille, petite étoile. 

This French version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star borrows some of the words from the first verse of Jane Taylor’s poem, but it’s not an exact translation. 

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH
ENGLISH LYRICS FRENCH LYRICS
Brille, brille, petite étoile
   
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Brille, brille, petite étoile
How I wonder what you are! Dans la nuit qui se dévoile
Up above the world so high, Tout là-haut au firmament
Like a diamond in the sky. Tu scintilles comme un diamant
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Brille, brille, petite étoile
How I wonder what you are! Veille sur ceux qui dorment en bas

Most versions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in French stop here, but there are four more verses in the English version of this children’s nursery rhyme.

I’ve translated the remaining verses from English to French for you. 

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH
Continued (most French songs don’t include these verses)
ENGLISH LYRICS FRENCH LYRICS (Brille, brille, petite étoile)
   
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Brille, brille, petite étoile
How I wonder what you are! Dans la nuit qui se dévoile
When the blazing sun is gone, Quand le soleil flamboyant est parti
When he nothing shines upon, Quand il n’y a rien, il brille
Then you show your little light, Puis tu montres ta petite lumière
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night. Scintille, scintille, à travers la nuit.
   
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Brille, brille, petite étoile
How I wonder what you are! Dans la nuit qui se dévoile
Then the traveller in the dark, Et le voyageur dans le noir,
Thanks you for your tiny spark, Te remercie de tes étincelles,
He couldn’t see which way to go, Comment pourrait-il voir son chemin
If you didn’t twinkle so? Si tu ne brillais pas ainsi ?
   
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Brille, brille, petite étoile
How I wonder what you are! Dans la nuit qui se dévoile
In the dark blue sky you keep, Dans le ciel bleu nuit, si profond
And often through my curtains peep, A travers mes volets souvent regardés
For you never shut your eye, Pour toi, ne ferme jamais tes yeux
Till the sun is in the sky. Jusqu’à ce que le soleil du matin monte dans le ciel
   
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Brille, brille, petite étoile
How I wonder what you are! Dans la nuit qui se dévoile
As your bright and tiny spark, Ce sont ta clarté et ta lueur
Lights the traveller in the dark, Qui éclairent le voyageur dans le noir,—
Though I don’t know what you are, Bien que je ne sache pas qui tu es,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Brille, brille, petite étoile
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Brille, brille, petite étoile
How I wonder what you are! Comme j’aimerais savoir qui tu es !

Which version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star do you like better?

Do you prefer the original French nursery rhyme set to the French poem “Le Faux Pas” or the English nursery rhyme set to the English poem “The Star”?

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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