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).

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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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