in one fell swoop

verb (used without object)

  1. to sweep through the air, as a bird or a bat, especially down upon prey.
  2. to come down upon something in a sudden, swift attack (often followed by down and on or upon): The army swooped down on the town.

verb (used with object)

  1. to take, lift, scoop up, or remove with or as with one sweeping motion (often followed by up, away, or off): He swooped her up in his arms.


  1. an act or instance of swooping; a sudden, swift descent.
  1. at/in one fell swoop, all at once or all together, as if by one blow: The quake flattened the houses at one fell swoop.


  1. (intr; usually foll by down, on, or upon) to sweep or pounce suddenly
  2. (tr; often foll by up, away, or off) to seize or scoop suddenly


  1. the act of swooping
  2. a swift descent

1560s, “to move or walk in a stately manner,” apparently from a dialectal survival of Old English swapan “to sweep, brandish, dash,” from Proto-Germanic *swaipanan, from PIE root *swei- “to swing, bend, to turn.” Meaning “pounce upon with a sweeping movement” first recorded 1630s. Spelling with -oo- may have been influenced by Scottish and northern England dialectal soop “to sweep,” from Old Norse sopa “to sweep.” Related: Swooped; swooping.


1540s, from swoop (v.). Phrase one fell swoop is from Shakespeare.

Oh, Hell-Kite! All? What, All my pretty Chickens, and their Damme, At one fell swoope? [“Macbeth,” IV.iii.219]

see one fell swoop.

see one fell swoop.

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