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  1. simple past tense of fall.


verb (used with object)
  1. to knock, strike, shoot, or cut down; cause to fall: to fell a moose; to fell a tree.
  2. Sewing. to finish (a seam) by sewing the edge down flat.
  1. Lumbering. the amount of timber cut down in one season.
  2. Sewing. a seam finished by felling.

Origin of fell2

before 900; Middle English fellen, Old English fellan, causative of feallan to fall; cognate with Gothic falljan to cause to fall


  1. fierce; cruel; dreadful; savage.
  2. destructive; deadly: fell poison; fell disease.
  1. at/in one fell swoop. swoop(def 5).

Origin of fell3

1250–1300; Middle English fel < Old French, nominative of felon wicked. See felon1
Related formsfell·ness, noun


  1. the skin or hide of an animal; pelt.

Origin of fell4

before 900; Middle English, Old English; cognate with Dutch vel, German Fell, Old Norse -fjall (in berfjall bear-skin), Gothic -fill (in thrutsfill scab-skin, leprosy); akin to Latin pellis skin, hide


noun Scot. and North England.
  1. an upland pasture, moor, or thicket; a highland plateau.

Origin of fell5

1300–50; Middle English < Old Norse fell, fjall hill, mountain, akin to German Felsen rock, cliff


verb (used without object), fell, fall·en, fall·ing.
  1. to drop or descend under the force of gravity, as to a lower place through loss or lack of support.
  2. to come or drop down suddenly to a lower position, especially to leave a standing or erect position suddenly, whether voluntarily or not: to fall on one's knees.
  3. to become less or lower; become of a lower level, degree, amount, quality, value, number, etc.; decline: The temperature fell ten degrees. Stock prices fell to a new low for the year.
  4. to subside or abate.
  5. extend downward; hang down: Her hair falls to her shoulders.
  6. to become lowered or directed downward, as the eyes: My eyes fell before his steady gaze.
  7. to become lower in pitch or volume: Her voice fell, and she looked about in confusion.
  8. to succumb to temptation or sin, especially to become unchaste or to lose one's innocence.
  9. to lose status, dignity, position, character, etc.
  10. to succumb to attack: The city fell to the enemy.
  11. to be overthrown, as a government.
  12. to drop down wounded or dead, especially to be slain: to fall in battle.
  13. to pass into some physical, mental, or emotional condition: to fall asleep; to fall in love.
  14. to envelop or come as if by dropping, as stillness or night.
  15. to issue forth: Witty remarks fall easily from his lips.
  16. to come by lot or chance: The chore fell to him.
  17. to come by chance into a particular position: to fall among thieves.
  18. to come to pass, occur, or become at a certain time: Christmas falls on a Monday this year. The rent falls due the first of every month.
  19. to have its proper place: The accent falls on the last syllable.
  20. to come by right: The inheritance fell to the only living relative.
  21. to be naturally divisible (usually followed by into): The story fell into two distinct parts.
  22. to lose animation; appear disappointed, as the face: His face fell when he heard the bad news.
  23. to slope or extend in a downward direction: The field falls gently to the river.
  24. to be directed, as light, sight, etc., on something: His eyes fell upon the note on the desk.
  25. to collapse, as through weakness, damage, poor construction, or the like; topple or sink: The old tower fell under its own weight. The cake fell when he slammed the oven door.
  26. (of an animal, especially a lamb) to be born: Two lambs fell yesterday.
verb (used with object), fell, fall·en, fall·ing.
  1. to fell (a tree, animal, etc.).
  1. an act or instance of falling or dropping from a higher to a lower place or position.
  2. that which falls or drops: a heavy fall of rain.
  3. the season of the year that comes after summer and before winter; autumn.
  4. a becoming less; a lowering or decline; a sinking to a lower level: the fall of the Roman Empire.
  5. the distance through which anything falls: It is a long fall to the ground from this height.
  6. Usually falls. a cataract or waterfall.
  7. downward slope or declivity: the gentle rise and fall of the meadow.
  8. a falling from an erect position, as to the ground: to have a bad fall.
  9. a hanging down: a fall of long hair.
  10. a succumbing to temptation; lapse into sin.
  11. the Fall, (sometimes lowercase) Theology. the lapse of human beings into a state of natural or innate sinfulness through the sin of Adam and Eve.
  12. Slang. an arrest by the police.
  13. surrender or capture, as of a city.
  14. proper place: the fall of an accent on a syllable.
  15. Wrestling.
    1. an act or instance of holding or forcing an opponent's shoulders against the mat for a specified length of time.
    2. a match or division of a match.
  16. a hairpiece consisting of long hair that is attached to one's own hair at the crown and usually allowed to hang freely down the back of the head so as to cover or blend with the natural hair.
  17. an opaque veil hanging loose from the back of a hat.
  18. falling band.
  19. a decorative cascade of lace, ruffles, or the like.
  20. Machinery, Nautical. the part of the rope of a tackle to which the power is applied in hoisting.
  21. Hunting. a deadfall.
  22. the long soft hair that hangs over the forehead and eyes of certain terriers.
  23. Armor. a pivoted peak projecting over the face opening of a burgonet.
  24. Astrology. the sign of the zodiac in which the most negative influence of a planet is expressed (opposed to exaltationdef 5).
  25. Mining. rock or ore that has collapsed from a roof, hanging wall, or the sides of a passage.
Verb Phrases
  1. fall away,
    1. to withdraw support or allegiance: The candidate's supporters fell away when he advocated racial discrimination.
    2. to become lean or thin; diminish; decline.
    3. to forsake one's faith, cause, or principles: Many fell away because they were afraid of reprisals.
  2. fall back, to give way; recede; retreat: The relentless shelling forced the enemy to fall back.
  3. fall back on/upon,
    1. Also fall back to.to retreat to: They fell back on their entrenchments. The troops fell back to their original position.
    2. to have recourse to; rely on: They had no savings to fall back on.
  4. fall behind,
    1. to lag, in pace or progress: We are falling behind in our work. Fatigued, some of the marchers fell behind.
    2. to fail to pay (a debt, obligation, etc.) at the appointed time: She fell behind in her tax payments, and the property was confiscated.
  5. fall down, Informal. to perform disappointingly; to disappoint; fail: He was doing well on the exam until he fell down on the last essay question.
  6. fall for, Slang.
    1. to be deceived by: Imagine falling for such an old trick.
    2. to fall in love with: He's not at all the type you would expect her to fall for.
  7. fall in,
    1. to fall to pieces toward the interior; sink inward.
    2. to take one's place in the ranks, as a soldier.
    3. Also fall in with.to become acquainted with, especially by chance: We fell in with an interesting couple from Paris.
  8. fall off,
    1. to separate from; withdraw.
    2. to decrease in number, amount, or intensity; diminish: Tourism falls off when the summer is over.
    3. Nautical.to deviate from the heading; fall to leeward.
    4. South Midland and Southern U.S.to lose weight, usually due to illness: She was sick all winter and fell off till she was just skin and bones.
  9. fall on/upon,
    1. to assault; attack: The enemy fell on them suddenly from the rear.
    2. to be the obligation of: It has fallen on me to support the family.
    3. to experience; encounter: Once well-to-do, they had fallen on hard times.
    4. to chance upon; come upon: I fell upon the idea while looking through a magazine.
  10. fall out,
    1. to quarrel; disagree: We fell out over who was to wash the dishes.
    2. to happen; occur: It fell out that we met by chance weeks later.
    3. to leave one's place in the ranks, as a soldier: They were ordered to fall out when the parade ended.
    4. Slang.to burst out laughing.
    5. South Midland and Southern U.S.to become unconscious; pass out.
  11. fall through, to come to nothing; fail of realization: Despite all his efforts, the deal fell through.
  12. fall to,
    1. to apply oneself; begin: to fall to work.
    2. to begin to eat: They fell to and soon finished off the entire turkey.
  13. fall under,
    1. to be the concern or responsibility of.
    2. to be classified as; be included within: That case falls under the heading of errors of judgment.
  1. fall all over oneself, to show unusual or excessive enthusiasm or eagerness, especially in the hope of being favored or rewarded: The young trainees fell all over themselves to praise the boss's speech.Also fall over oneself.
  2. fall/come short. short(def 44).
  3. fall foul/afoul of. foul(def 38).
  4. fall off the roof, Slang: Older Use. to menstruate.
  5. fall/land on one's feet. feet(def 3).
  6. fall out of bed, to get out of bed quickly.
  7. fall over backward(s),
    1. bend1(def 21).
    2. to exhibit great eagerness, especially in pursuit of one's own advantage: The candidate fell over backward in support of the issues that would win votes.

Origin of fall

before 900; Middle English fallen, Old English feallan; cognate with German fallen, Old Norse falla; akin to Lithuanian pùlti to fall
Related formsun·fall·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for fell

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Perhaps you already know that Anaxagoras fell asleep in Ionia.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • In the course of this process he fell into adventures, some of them, perhaps, unedifying.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • For young Bines, after dinner, fell in love with Miss Milbrey all over again.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • She fell to the floor in helpless, shrieking laughter when he came.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • For as he tried to sit up, he fell back sick and dizzy on the bed.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

British Dictionary definitions for fell


verb (tr)
  1. to cut or knock downto fell a tree; to fell an opponent
  2. needlework to fold under and sew flat (the edges of a seam)
  1. US and Canadian the timber felled in one season
  2. a seam finished by felling
Derived Formsfellable, adjective

Word Origin

Old English fellan; related to Old Norse fella, Old High German fellen; see fall


  1. archaic cruel or fierce; terrible
  2. archaic destructive or deadlya fell disease
  3. one fell swoop a single hasty action or occurrence
Derived Formsfellness, noun

Word Origin

C13 fel, from Old French: cruel, from Medieval Latin fellō villain; see felon 1


  1. the past tense of fall


  1. an animal skin or hide

Word Origin

Old English; related to Old High German fel skin, Old Norse berfjall bearskin, Latin pellis skin; see peel 1


  1. (often plural) Northern English and Scot
    1. a mountain, hill, or tract of upland moor
    2. (in combination)fell-walking

Word Origin

C13: from Old Norse fjall; related to Old High German felis rock


  1. the Fall theol Adam's sin of disobedience and the state of innate sinfulness ensuing from this for himself and all mankindSee also original sin


verb falls, falling, fell (fɛl) or fallen (ˈfɔːlən) (mainly intr)
  1. to descend by the force of gravity from a higher to a lower place
  2. to drop suddenly from an erect position
  3. to collapse to the ground, esp in pieces
  4. to become less or lower in number, quality, etcprices fell in the summer
  5. to become lower in pitch
  6. to extend downwardsher hair fell to her waist
  7. to be badly wounded or killed
  8. to slope in a downward direction
  9. Christianity to yield to temptation or sin
  10. to diminish in status, estimation, etc
  11. to yield to attackthe city fell under the assault
  12. to lose powerthe government fell after the riots
  13. to pass into or take on a specified conditionto fall asleep; fall in love
  14. to adopt a despondent expressionher face fell
  15. to be avertedher gaze fell
  16. to come by chance or presumptionsuspicion fell on the butler
  17. to occur; take placenight fell; Easter falls early this year
  18. (of payments) to be due
  19. to be directed to a specific point
  20. (foll by back, behind, etc) to move in a specified direction
  21. to occur at a specified placethe accent falls on the last syllable
  22. (foll by to) to return (to); be inherited (by)the estate falls to the eldest son
  23. (often foll by into, under, etc) to be classified or includedthe subject falls into two main areas
  24. to issue fortha curse fell from her lips
  25. (of animals, esp lambs) to be born
  26. British dialect to become pregnant
  27. (tr) Australian and NZ dialect to fell (trees)
  28. cricket (of a batsman's wicket) to be taken by the bowling sidethe sixth wicket fell for 96
  29. archaic to begin to dofall a-doing; fall to doing
  30. fall flat to fail to achieve a desired effect
  31. fall foul of
    1. to come into conflict with
    2. nauticalto come into collision with
  32. fall short
    1. to prove inadequate
    2. (often foll by of)to fail to reach or measure up to (a standard)
  1. an act or instance of falling
  2. something that fallsa fall of snow
  3. mainly US autumn
  4. the distance that something fallsa hundred-foot fall
  5. a sudden drop from an upright position
  6. (often plural)
    1. a waterfall or cataract
    2. (capital when part of a name)Niagara Falls
  7. a downward slope or decline
  8. a decrease in value, number, etc
  9. a decline in status or importance
  10. a moral lapse or failing
  11. a capture or overthrowthe fall of the city
  12. a long false hairpiece; switch
  13. a piece of loosely hanging material, such as a veil on a hat
  14. machinery nautical the end of a tackle to which power is applied to hoist it
  15. nautical one of the lines of a davit for holding, lowering, or raising a boat
  16. Also called: pinfall wrestling a scoring move, pinning both shoulders of one's opponent to the floor for a specified period
  17. hunting
    1. another word for deadfall
    2. (as modifier)a fall trap
    1. the birth of an animal
    2. the animals produced at a single birth
  18. take the fall slang, mainly US to be blamed, punished, or imprisoned

Word Origin

Old English feallan; related to Old Norse falla, Old Saxon, Old High German fallan to fall; see fell ²
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for fell


Old English fællan (Mercian), fyllan (West Saxon) "make fall, cause to fall," also "strike down, demolish, kill," from Proto-Germanic *fallijanan (cf. Old Frisian falla, Old Saxon fellian, Dutch fellen, Old High German fellen, German fällen, Old Norse fella, Danish fælde), causative of *fallan (Old English feallan, see fall (v.)), showing i-mutation. Related: Felled; feller; felling.


"cruel," late 13c., from Old French fel "cruel, fierce, vicious," from Medieval Latin fello "villain" (see felon). Phrase at one fell swoop is from "Macbeth."


"rocky hill," c.1300, from Old Norse fiall "mountain," from Proto-Germanic *felzam- "rock" (cf. German Fels "stone, rock"), from PIE root *pel(i)s- "rock, cliff."


Old English feoll; past tense of fall (v.).


"skin or hide of an animal," Old English fel, from Proto-Germanic *fellom- (cf. Old Frisian fel, Old Saxon fel, Dutch vel, Old High German fel, German fell, Old Norse fiall, Gothic fill), from PIE *pello- (see film (n.)).



Old English feallan (class VII strong verb; past tense feoll, past participle feallen) "to fall; fail, decay, die," from Proto-Germanic *fallanan (cf. Old Frisian falla, Old Saxon fallan, Dutch vallen, Old Norse falla, Old High German fallan, German fallen), from PIE root *pol- "to fall" (cf. Armenian p'ul "downfall," Lithuanian puola "to fall," Old Prussian aupallai "finds," literally "falls upon").

Most of the figurative senses had developed in Middle English. Meaning "to be reduced" (as temperature) is from 1650s. To fall in love is attested from 1520s; to fall asleep is late 14c. Fall through "come to naught" is from 1781. To fall for something is from 1903.



c.1200, "a falling;" see fall (n.). Old English noun form, fealle, meant "snare, trap." Sense of "autumn" (now only in U.S.) is 1660s, short for fall of the leaf (1540s). That of "cascade, waterfall" is from 1570s. Wrestling sense is from 1550s. Of a city under siege, etc., 1580s. Fall guy is from 1906.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with fell


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.