One Fell Swoop - A Birding Phrase



Did you ever wonder where the phrase One Fell Swoop came from? It actually has to do with birding! It refers to when a bird of prey plummets down to attack.

Birds such as eagles, hawks and falcons, often soar high up in the sky, watching for prey below. When they spot a bird or other tasty animal, they go into a "stoop". This is an incredibly fast dive which can reach speeds of 80 miles per hour or more.

This stoop is also often called a "swoop", as the bird swoops out of the sky to hit its prey.

As far as the "fell" part goes, that's an adjective that is sort of archaic now, but which means "destructive". For example, Shakespeare wrote a sonnet which begins:

"WHEN I have seen by Time’s fell hand defac’d
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;"

He means that time can destroy things that man has poured money into building.

So a fell swoop is sudden, unexpected and destructive!

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