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Fictitious old woman, reputedly the source of the body of traditional children's songs and verses known as nursery rhymes. Often pictured as a beak-nosed, sharp-chinned old woman riding on the back of a flying gander, she was first associated with nursery rhymes in Mother Goose's Melody (1781), published by the successors of John Newbery. The name apparently derived from the title of Charles Perrault's collection of fairy tales Ma Mère l'oye (1697; My Mother Goose). The persistent rumour that Mother Goose was an actual Boston woman is false.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Mother Goose, visit Britannica.com.