one fell swoop
Posted: 16 April 2018 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]
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fell (adj.)
“cruel,” late 13c., possibly late Old English, perhaps from Old French fel “cruel, fierce, vicious,” from Medieval Latin fello “villain” (see felon). Phrase at one fell swoop is from “Macbeth.”

https://www.etymonline.com/word/fell

Is this the only case where “fell”, with this meaning, is used today? Also, how often does a word, such as “fell” used by Shakespeare in “Macbeth”, survive even though it is listed as archaic today?

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Posted: 16 April 2018 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The OED gives this definition as:

In weakened sense, with intensifying force usually determined by the context: exceedingly great, huge, mighty, sudden, strange, etc. Now chiefly in at one fell swoop.

But the big dictionary shows that fell is very much still in use in a variety of related senses, including “intensely painful or destructive; keen, piercing; deadly”. It may not be the most common of words nowadays, but it’s still around.

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Posted: 16 April 2018 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In the big Dic as Dave has already noted:

The entry before “one fell swoop” is:

1979 D. Campbell in J. Hendry Chapman (1985) 86 Dae ye think the past is fell An’ the mair nations the mair hell?

Chapman in Scottish play of some sort.
[ Edited: 16 April 2018 10:56 AM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 16 April 2018 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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related to fell as in cutting down a tree?

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Posted: 16 April 2018 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The flying creatures ridden by the Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings are never named; it’s not even clear if they are featherless birds, some sort of pterosaur, or what.  Tolkien refers to them (once, I think) as “fell beasts” (savage, dangerous animals) and many readers seem to have taken this as their specfic name.  I find this annoying, but not as annoying as the claim that dwimmerlaik is their name.

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Posted: 17 April 2018 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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steve_g - 16 April 2018 11:49 AM

related to fell as in cutting down a tree?

No. The adjective fell is a twelfth century borrowing from French. The root means deadly. It’s related to felon and felony.

The verb to fell (as in a tree) traces back to the Old English verb fyllan.

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Posted: 17 April 2018 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m assuming the two words entered the English language at different times. Would they have had different spellings at first and changed over time, or were they spelled the same when they became part of the language? It is fascinating to me how one word can have several different meanings and came from different languages.

[ Edited: 17 April 2018 06:54 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 17 April 2018 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dr. Techie - 16 April 2018 11:53 AM

The flying creatures ridden by the Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings are never named; it’s not even clear if they are featherless birds, some sort of pterosaur, or what.  Tolkien refers to them (once, I think) as “fell beasts” (savage, dangerous animals) and many readers seem to have taken this as their specfic name.  I find this annoying, but not as annoying as the claim that dwimmerlaik is their name.

Females dwarves do or do not have beards:  discuss.

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Posted: 17 April 2018 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Eyehawk - 17 April 2018 06:52 AM

I’m assuming the two words entered the English language at different times. Would they have had different spellings at first and changed over time, or were they spelled the same when they became part of the language? It is fascinating to me how one word can have several different meanings and came from different languages.

It’s really three different words:
--to fall, intransitive verb
--to fell, transitive verb
--fell, adjective

The intransitive verb to fall comes from the Old English feallan.

The transitive verb to fell comes from the Old English fyllan.

The past tense stem of to fall <fell> and the present tense stem of to fell both converged on the <fell> spelling in the Middle English period. The <e> had been present in various forms of the both verbs going back to Old English. So it’s no mystery where the <e> came from.

The adjective fell was borrowed from the French fel sometime before 1300.

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Posted: 17 April 2018 12:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Females dwarves do or do not have beards:  discuss.

Although it’s not stated explicitly, I think the discussion of “Durin’s folk” in the Appendices makes it pretty clear that they do. It does raise the question, did Aulë make bearded females when he first made the Dwarves or had he not thought to make dwarf-women but Eru Iluvatar turned some of them into females when the gave them true life, so that the race could continue, and did not bother to change their appearance?

And in response to Dave’s post, we also have the nouns

fell, animal hide with the fur
fell, hill, mountain, high ground
fell, unrefined lead ore
fell, gall, bitterness

all of which apparently are unrelated to the words Dave mentions, or to each other.  (Although according to the OED the orgin of the “lead ore” use is unknown, and might somehow be connected to one of the others.

I started thinking about a story of a man who fell off a fell, that he climbed because he wanted to fell a tree, but he tripped over the fell he was wearing…

And of course this all happened in autumn.

[ Edited: 17 April 2018 12:32 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 17 April 2018 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Gideon Fell would then be called in to demonstrate that it was in fact fell murder, one of the most ingenious in his long career. The killer was a feller named Joe.

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Posted: 18 April 2018 05:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The flying creatures ridden by the Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings are never named; it’s not even clear if they are featherless birds, some sort of pterosaur, or what.  Tolkien refers to them (once, I think) as “fell beasts” (savage, dangerous animals) and many readers seem to have taken this as their specfic name. 

The makers of the film versions, too. In an interview about the creation of all the models needed for the production the co-head of Weta Workshop mentioned them, stressing only the first word as though it was a ‘fell-beast’. If he had taken fell to be a simple descriptive adjective he’d surely have stressed both words, as you would in saying ‘mad dog’.

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