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The meaning and origin of the expression: How are the mighty fallen

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How are the mighty fallen

Meaning

The previously powerful are now reduced.

Origin

This expression derives from the Bible. The earliest version in English is found in the Great Bible, Samuel 1:19, 1539:

Oh howe are the myghtie ouerthrowen.

The currently used 'fallen' version is found in the King James Version, 1611 and is a demonstration of David's lament over Saul and Jonathan:

1:19 The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!
1:20 Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
1:21 Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.
1:22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
1:23 Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
1:24 Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.
1:25 How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.
1:26 I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
1:27 How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!