Wordy Wednesday – “One fell swoop”

Today’s wordy phrase is:  “One fell swoop.”  Shakespeare used this phrase for the first time in Macbeth (1605).

When Macduff learns that Macbeth’s murderers have killed his wife and children, he says:

All my pretty ones?
Did you say all?  Oh hell-kite!  All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

The phrase means “all at once.”   The kite is actually a predatory bird that swoops down to catch its prey.  So, in this case, Macduff is asking if all [his] pretty chickens (i.e. all his children) and their dam (i.e. their mother) were killed at one fell swoop (i.e. all at once) by Macbeth (i.e. the predatory kite).


One comment

  1. ‘Zounds N’ ‘Zwounds AR God’s Word reveal’d in th’aire o’ th’Flesh. Vanished not must thus be

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