“On Wisconsin” Lyrics Meaning [Explained]

“On, Wisconsin!” is not just a song; it is an anthem of unity, spirit, and pride that resonates with all Wisconsinites and Badger fans. Let’s delve into the lyrical meaning verse by verse and uncover the symbolism and ethos that this state song communicates.

Lyrics Interpretation

Before we delve into the story behind this song, let’s take a closer look at each verse of the lyrics.

Verse 1

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Plunge right through that line!

Run the ball right down the field, a touchdown sure this time.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Fight on for her fame,

Fight! Fellows! Fight! Fight, fight, we’ll win this game.

The first verse is a rousing call to action, filled with sports analogies. “Plunge right through that line! Run the ball right down the field, a touchdown sure this time,” are lines typically associated with football. This verse sets a tone of determination and high spirits, where ‘Wisconsin’ is not just a state but a team facing a challenge.

The repeated phrase “On, Wisconsin!” signifies a cry of encouragement and motivation. The reference to “her fame” can be interpreted as a call to uphold the state’s honor and reputation, urging Wisconsinites to fight for their pride.

Verse 2

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Stand up, Badgers sing!

‘Forward’ is our driving spirit loyal voices ring.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame

Stand, fellows, let us now salute her name!

The second verse continues the sense of camaraderie from the first. It uses the ‘Badger,’ the University of Wisconsin’s mascot, as a symbol for the state’s inhabitants and the broader community. This verse tells everyone to “stand up,” encouraging people to stand together as one, unified in their pride for Wisconsin.

The line “‘Forward’ is our driving spirit loyal voices ring,” reflects the state motto, “Forward,” emphasizing progress and innovation as the guiding force behind the state’s actions. The reference to “raise her glowing flame” symbolizes the bright future of Wisconsin, cultivated by its citizens’ hard work and dedication.

Finally, “stand, fellows, let us now salute her name” calls for a moment of respect, acknowledgment, and gratitude towards the state, portraying a deep-rooted love for Wisconsin.

Verse 3

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Grand all badger state!

We the loyal sons and daughters Hail for good and great!

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Champion of the right!

Forward Our motto God will give thee right!

The final verse reiterates the sentiment of unity and loyalty. “Grand all badger state” establishes the pride of being a part of Wisconsin, and “We the loyal sons and daughters” represents the citizens as a large family dedicated to the prosperity of the state.

“Hail for good and great!” gives a sense of acknowledging the positive aspects and successes of the state, while “Champion of the right” paints Wisconsin as a beacon of justice, standing strong for what is morally right.

The line “Forward Our motto God will give thee right” reinforces the theme of progress and reaffirms the belief in divine guidance and support, providing a sense of faith, hope, and aspiration for the future of the state.

True Meaning Behind “On Wisconsin”

“On, Wisconsin!” is a tune that every Wisconsin Badger and cheesehead holds close to their heart. This isn’t your typical fight song. It’s got history, it’s got spirit, and it’s got some interesting trivia that’ll blow your socks off.

First off, “On, Wisconsin!” has been getting Badgers pumped since 1909. It was actually supposed to be “Minnesota, Minnesota,” as composer William T. Purdy originally planned to enter it into a competition for a new fight song at the University of Minnesota. But Carl Beck, a former Wisconsin student, persuaded Purdy to change his mind and let his old school use the song. Can you imagine the rivalry if it ended up being the Minnesota fight song? Phew!

From there, Beck replaced “Minnesota, Minnesota” with “On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!” The song is so energetic and catchy that it’s hard to not chant along. Fast forward to 1913, the lyrics were reworked by Judge Charles D. Rosa and J. S. Hubbard for the state song of Wisconsin, and it became official in 1959. So, not only is it a fight song for the Badgers, but it’s also a state anthem!

The line “On, Wisconsin!” is also a bit of a history lesson. Arthur MacArthur Jr., a Civil War hero, shouted the phrase during the Battle of Chattanooga at Missionary Ridge, rallying his regiment. Talk about a rally cry, right? He even earned the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

John Philip Sousa, a real deal marching band legend, labeled “On, Wisconsin!” as “the finest of college marching songs.” And it’s not just popular in Wisconsin; some 2,500 schools across the country have their own version of it. So it’s safe to say this tune has made its mark nationwide.

Now, here’s where things get a bit funky. Rumor has it that Paul McCartney or Michael Jackson owned the rights to the song. But nope, the song is in the public domain in the United States. However, who owns the international rights is still a bit of a mystery.


“On, Wisconsin!” isn’t just a song; it’s a salute to the spirit of Wisconsin, the bravery of a Civil War hero, and a chant that unites Badgers and Wisconsinites alike. So next time you hear it, remember you’re not just singing a song, you’re joining in a legacy that’s been over a century in the making.

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