I was reading Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata to practice my fluency of understanding simple sentences. In the tenth chapter, Bestiae et Homines (page 69), I came across a description of eagles.

Aquila est magna avis fera, quae parvas aves capit et est.

I quickly translated it as that which follows.

An eagle is a large and untame bird, which captures small birds and... is?

I thought that, of course, an eagle might eat smaller birds, but why is est used? Can esse also mean to eat? I checked many online dictionaries, but was unable to find any alternative definitions related to the action of eating.

The words used in this book are very basic, as it's for beginners. I've never discovered a word which I had to look up until now.

1 Answer 1


Indeed, it means [he] eats; it is a contracted form. It's not very common, nor extremely rare. Lewis & Short even call it "very frequent", which I think is an exaggeration:

The contr. forms es, est, estis, etc., are very freq. in prose and poetry: "est", Vergil, Aeneid 4, 66; 5, 683; Horace, Satires 2, 2, 57

  • 3
    The initial E is short for "be" and long for "eat" in esse, es, est, estis... (Or at least so I have been told repeatedly.) But the quantity is often hidden, so it doesn't help distinguishing the two.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Apr 10, 2017 at 3:00
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    Hence ĕs quod ēs ‘you are what you eat’. Apr 10, 2017 at 8:14
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    I think most etymologists would agree that the "contracted" forms are historically primary and that the "regular" forms are analogical.
    – fdb
    Apr 10, 2017 at 11:10
  • Is this the same as in Russian есть (to eat) vs. есть (is)?
    – Anixx
    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:17
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    @Anixx You could ask that as a separate question. It'd be interesting to know how the ambiguities in the two languages are related. (I only saw your comment now.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 10, 2018 at 18:08

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