One fell swoop
Wendles
Does any one know the origin of this term and the literal meaning?
Lewis Joplin II
We got the job done in one fell swoop."

"ONE FELL SWOOP simply means one fierce, sudden onslaught, of the kind a hawk might make when swooping down on a defenseless small animal. 'Fell' is a word rarely met outside of this particular phrase. It has no connection with 'fall.' This 'fell' comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'fel,' from which we also get 'felon,' a person guilty of a major crime." From the "Morris Dictionary of Words and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1977, 1988).

Lewis Joplin II
Shakespeare used the expression "one fell swoop" in Macbeth (Act 4, Scene 3).

Macduff:
He has no children. - All my pretty ones.
Did you say all? - O hell-kite! - All?
What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam, At one fell swoop?

"...MacDuff uses 'fell' in a sense that is now rare - as an adjective meaning 'fierce, deadly.' King Macbeth, who knows that Macduff is conspiring to overthrow him, had ordered the murder of Macduff's wife, children, and servants. This is the 'fell swoop'" Macduff likens Macbeth to a 'hell-kite' (the kite is a vicious bird of prey in the falcon family)..." From "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare!" By Michael Macrone (Gramercy Books, New York, 1999).

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