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See also: foot-fall



From foot (part of the human leg below the ankle) +‎ fall (act of moving to a lower position under the effect of gravity, noun).[1]



footfall (countable and uncountable, plural footfalls)

  1. (countable) The sound made by a footstep; also, the footstep or step itself.
    • 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene ii], page 9, column 1:
      [L]ike Hedg-hogs vvhich / Lye tumbling in my bare-foote vvay, and mount / Their pricks at my foot-fall: ſometime am I / All vvound vvith Adders, vvho vvith clouen tongues / Doe hiſſe me into madneſſe: []
    • 1826 May 18 (date written), Walter Scott, “[Entry dated 18 May 1826]”, in David Douglas, editor, The Journal of Sir Walter Scott [], volume I, Edinburgh: David Douglas, published 1890, →OCLC, page 195:
      They are treading fast and thick. For weeks you could have heard a foot-fall.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “The Spouter-Inn”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, pages 22–23:
      At last I slid off into a light doze, and had pretty nearly made a good offing towards the land of Nod, when I heard a heavy footfall in the passage, and saw a glimmer of light come into the room from under the door.
    • 1873, William Black, “Redintegratio Amoris”, in A Princess of Thule. [], New York, N.Y., London: Harper & Brothers, →OCLC, page 440:
      He did not hear her approach, her footfall was so light; and it was with the same silent step she went into the room, and knelt down beside him, and put her hands and face on his knee, []
    • 1916 October, Rabindranath Tagore, “The Hungry Stones”, in C[harles] F[reer] Andrews [et al.], transl., The Hungry Stones and Other Stories, Bolpur edition, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, →OCLC, page 7:
      I thought of going out for a ride, and was about to get up when I heard a footfall on the steps behind. I looked back, but there was no one. As I sat down again, thinking it to be an illusion, I heard many footfalls, as if a large number of persons were rushing down the steps.
    • 1936 April, T[homas] S[tearns] Eliot, “Burnt Norton”, in Collected Poems 1909–1935, London: Faber & Faber [], published September 1954, →OCLC, part I, page 185:
      What might have been and what has been / Point to one end, which is always present. / Footfalls echo in the memory / Down the passage which we did not take / Towards the door we never opened / Into the rose-garden.
  2. (uncountable, originally and chiefly Britain) The number of pedestrians going into or passing through a place (especially a commercial venue such as a shop) during a specified time period; also, the pedestrians in a particular place regarded collectively; foot traffic.
    • 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson, “In the Valley. III. Napa Wine.”, in The Silverado Squatters, London: Chatto and Windus, [], →OCLC, page 46:
      This stir of change and these perpetual echoes of the moving footfall, haunt the land. Men move eternally, still chasing Fortune; and, fortune found, still wander.
    • 2008 December 9, “Bargains galore in battle of the high street”, in The Scotsman[1], Edinburgh: The Scotsman Publications, JPIMedia Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 23 August 2009:
      With high-street stores desperate to increase footfall and buck the financial downturn, retailers have started issuing discount vouchers.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, “New Works”, in Underground Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube, London: Profile Books, →ISBN, page 209:
      John Betjeman enjoyed travelling on the line and said that, when he retired, he'd like to be the station master at Blake Hall, which was the stop before Ongar until it (Blake Hall) was closed permanently in 1981, its passenger footfall being down to six a day, or twelve, depending on whether you're counting passengers or feet.

Alternative forms[edit]



  1. ^ footfall, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022; “footfall, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]