Also known as a proverb, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” is a traditional nursery rhyme originating from the 16th century England.
The meaning of the proverb is that it is not enough to wish upon something, you have to take action if you want it to happen.
A similar proverb was first recorded in the “Remaines of a Greater Worke, Concerning Britaine” published by William Camden (1551–1623) “If wishes were thrushes beggers would eat”. The first version of the proverb, closed to the modern version, was published in the Scottish Proverbs, Collected and Arranged by James Kelly, in 1721.
The rhyme as it is known today was published in James Orchard Halliwell’s English Nursery Rhymes collection around 1840s. It had a different last line, meant to encourage the children working more and questioning less:” If if’s and and’s were pots and pans, there’d surely be dishes to do”
“If wishes were horses” Lyrics
If wishes were horses
Beggars would ride:
If turnips were watches
I would wear one by my side.
And if if’s and an’s were pots and pans,
The tinker would never work!