What Does The Cheese Stands Alone Mean?

The Cheese Stands Alone Meaning

Definition: Someone is alone.

Origin of The Cheese Stands Alone

This idiom comes from a children’s song. The song comes together with a game. All the children stand in a circle, with one child in the center who plays the farmer.

The farmer chooses another child as the wife, who chooses another as a son/daughter, who chooses a nurse, and so on. The last child chosen is the cheese. The cheese doesn’t choose anyone, and stands alone in the center of the circle.

The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the farmer in the dell.

The farmer takes a wife, the farmer takes a wife,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the farmer takes a wife.

The wife takes a child, the wife takes a child,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the wife takes a child.

The child takes a nurse, the child takes a nurse,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the child takes a nurse.

The nurse takes a cow, the nurse takes a cow,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the nurse takes a cow.

The cow takes a dog, the cow takes a dog,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the cow takes a dog.

The dog takes a cat, the dog takes a cat,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the dog takes a cat.

The cat takes a rat, the cat takes a rat,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the cat takes a rat.

The rat takes the cheese, the rat takes the cheese,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the rat takes the cheese.

The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone,

Hi-ho, the derry-o, the cheese stands alone.

the cheese stands alone bookThis song was originally in German, and first appeared in writing in the year 1826. Immigrants took the song to America, where it appeared in English in the year 1883, and in other countries later on.

People often use this expression in relation to the game. However, occasionally someone uses it as an unusual way to emphasize that they are solitary.

Examples of The Cheese Stands Alone

In the dialogue below, two men use the idiom while discussing a party that a third friend invited them both to.

Robert: I’m pretty excited about the party that Johnny is throwing!

Marty: Yeah, I wish I could go.

Robert: What do you mean? Why can’t you go?

Marty: I have other plans that I made a long time ago. I can’t cancel them.

Robert: Oh no! But you were going to be the only that I knew at the party.

Marty: You’ll know Johnny.

Robert: I know, but he’s the host so he’ll be busy. Are you sure you can’t cancel your other plans?

Marty: Yeah, I’m sure.

Robert: I guess I just won’t know anyone then. The cheese stands alone.

Marty: Don’t be so dramatic. You’ll meet new people and have a great time.

the cheese stands alone bookThe second dialogue shows two students who took their dogs to the dog park.

Josh: I’m so glad we decided to do this. My dog is having a great time playing with all the other dogs.

Jeff: Yeah. Your dog is having the best time. My dog is really awkward and won’t play with the other dogs.

Josh: Maybe we should try to encourage her to play.

Jeff: Nah. I think she’s just a solitary kind of dog. The cheese stands alone.

More Examples

This excerpt is from a photo caption. It is a play on words. The turkey’s name is Cheese, and he is alone in the picture, because his friend, Mac, is not with him.

  • Cheese stands alone: the turkey named Cheese, left, and his flockmember Mac, not shown, won the yearly presidential pardon from Obama on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is about a famous quote from a premium cable show.

  • “The cheese stands alone,” Omar says in the most quotable line of the actual scene from the HBO cult hit. –NPR


The phrase the cheese stands alone is the last line of a popular game and children’s song. People often use it as an uncommon way to describe someone who is all alone.