In One Fell Swoop – Meaning and Examples


If you do something in one fell swoop that means you did it in a single action. This phrase can also mean that something was done quickly; a swift action.

Example: My yard was in disarray. The grass was overgrown and weeds had popped up everywhere! However, in one fell swoop I solved this problem using my nifty lawn mower and I restored my lawn back to a presentable condition.

Synonyms / Similar:

In one fell swoop an eagle tries catching a fish.

What Is The Origin Of ‘In One Fell Swoop’?

The origin of the expression ‘in one fell swoop’ might have to do with birds of prey, such as eagles and hawks, and the manner in which they hunt other animals. Let me briefly elaborate on that:

Eagles and other birds of prey are carnivores, so they eat meat. How do they get their food? While soaring high above the ground, they use their excellent eyesight to spot potential targets. Once a target is located, they swoop down towards it. As they pierce through the air at high speeds, they extend their long talons as they prepare to grab the unsuspecting prey (you can see this pictured above with the eagle). Since birds of prey accomplish all of this in a single and sudden movement (or in other words, in one fell swoop), it could be that the expression and its meaning both originate from these kinds of birds and the way they hunt.

Anyway, how old is this idiom? The earliest I could find the expression is in the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, 1607:

“What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam, at one fell swoop?”

So this phrase is at least over 410 years old.

Example Sentences of – In One Fell Swoop

  • When I learned that we were running late for an appointment, in one fell swoop I got dressed and brushed my hair; we were out the door soon after.

Similar Examples:

  • I need a stack of printer paper for work and a replacement light bulb for the kitchen. Therefore, to kill two birds with one stone, I’ll stop by the store later and pick up both of these things.

Tip: Interested in reading about more expressions? In one swoop you can head on over to our phrases starting with ‘O’ page to see more like this.

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