In One Fell Swoop


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 a mess. The grass was overgrown and weeds were popping up everywhere! To solve the problem, I brought out my nifty lawnmower and in one fell swoop I restored my lawn back to a presentable condition.

1. In one go
2. Kill two birds with one stone

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 For ‘In One Fell Swoop’

  • We were running late and I wasn’t ready to leave yet, so in one fell swoop I got dressed and did my hair; we were out the door soon after.

Similar Examples:

  • I need to buy light bulbs for my desk lamp and a stack of printer paper for work. Therefore, to kill two birds with one stone, I plan on stopping by the store later.

Tip: Interested in reading about more expressions? Swoop on over to our phrases starting with ‘O’ page to see more like this.