There are 2 main definitions of eat in English:

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eat 1

Pronunciation: /ēt/

verb (past ate /āt/; past participle eaten /ˈētn/)

[with object]
1Put (food) into the mouth and chew and swallow it: he was eating a hot dog eat up all your peas [no object]: she watched her son as he ate
More example sentences
  • Mary smiled at him before eating her cereal, chewing happily.
  • I forgot to wipe my mouth after eating the chocolate cake my mom baked.
  • She quickly ate the burger and swallowed some of the fries whole.
gobble (up/down), bolt (down), wolf (down);
swallow, chew, munch, chomp
informal guzzle, nosh, put away, chow down on, tuck into, demolish, dispose of, polish off, pig out on, scarf (down)
1.1Have (a meal): we ate dinner in a noisy cafe
More example sentences
  • We sat at the dinner table later, eating the meal that Jane had prepared.
  • We would find little use for most of this as we mainly ate breakfast and evening meals at restaurants and the guiding service supplied packed lunches every midday.
  • There's lots more to choose from if you can't make it by on a Saturday, or you want to eat lunch or dinner.
have a meal, consume food, feed, snack;
breakfast, lunch, dine;
feast, banquet
informal graze, nosh
dated sup
1.2 [no object] (eat out) Have a meal in a restaurant.
Example sentences
  • Waterhouse explains that since we eat out so often, restaurant meals are no longer the special treat they once were.
  • ‘We ate out at restaurants or I cooked huge, high-fat meals every night,’ she recalls.
  • No meals are provided but eating out in this area is not all that expensive with a typical evening meal costing £10.
1.3 [no object] (eat in) Have a meal at home rather than in a restaurant.
Example sentences
  • The café sells a variety of food including kebabs and baltis and customers can either eat in or take meals away.
  • The accommodation is self-catering, so eating in is the way forward.
  • We can do what ordinary Venetians do: eat in or out, invite friends, and not feel forced to sit on cafe terraces to fill in time between meals.
1.4 informal Bother; annoy: she knew what was eating him
More example sentences
  • What you need to do is get to the root of who you are and discover what's eating you.
  • You feel so violated, that it eats you away slowly.
  • Whatever's eating him, he's losing his temper more and more, and the angrier he gets, the more incomprehensible he gets.
1.5 vulgar slang, chiefly US Perform fellatio or cunnilingus on (someone).
1.6 vulgar slang (eat out) Perform cunnilingus or anilingus on (someone).
1.7 informalUS Absorb (financial loss or cost).
Example sentences
  • So they're generally eating the currency loss caused by the greenback's decline.
  • If we had to, we could probably eat the cost and still have a margin.
  • If a hospital spent more than its allotted DRG, it now had to eat the cost.


(eats) informal
Food or snacks: people would stop for soft drinks or eats
More example sentences
  • Hola's also got a nice short menu of tropical and tropical-inspired light eats, perfect breakfast and lunch fare.
  • Tickets cost 10 and include drinks and light eats.
  • Open for three months now, it's a place for light vegetarian eats.



eat someone alive

informal (Of insects) bite someone many times: we were eaten alive by mosquitoes
More example sentences
  • He was tempted to take off his shirt, but knew that the wicked little insects would eat him alive.
  • How can I drop a hint to the others that the mosquitoes are eating me alive when they, even the women, are all far more covered than I am?
  • At night, crammed as many as 14 to a room, they say the mosquitoes eat them alive.
1.1Exploit someone’s weakness and completely dominate them: he expects manufacturers to be eaten alive by lawyers in liability suits
More example sentences
  • I couldn't show any sign of weakness or they'd eat me alive.
  • Most felt Christie would be eaten alive by some of the bigger, more robust full-forwards.
  • Up front Laois were eaten alive by a ravenous Westmeath defense.

eat crow

see crow1.

eat dirt

see dirt.

eat someone's dust

see dust.

eat one's heart out

Suffer from excessive longing, especially for someone or something unattainable.
Example sentences
  • I've been eating my heart out for the last three weeks because he lost the San Diego.
  • Jamie is eating his heart out for Amanda, the fashion-model wife who ditched him, and whom he still keeps pursuing until he warms to a blind date, Vicky, a philosophy student with whom he may start afresh.
  • Let him eat his heart out for what he'd rejected.
[in imperative] informal5.1 Used to encourage feelings of jealousy or regret: eat your heart out, I’m having a ball!
More example sentences
  • The PM's car has a steel plate underside, panic buttons, an exploding windscreen, loudspeakers and even gun ports: 007, eat your heart out.
  • Performing home-grown songs laced with a healthy mix of rock standards - including a simply sublime version of Pink Cadillac - eat your heart out, Springsteen - this band set the stage alight.
  • There is a surprise victor at Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova, who as well as taking the plate also wowed the crowds - Anna Kournikova eat your heart out.

eat humble pie

see humble.

eat like a bird (or a horse)

informal Eat very little (or a lot).
Example sentences
  • Sometimes you can't get him to eat a thing, and then at other times he eats like a horse!
  • Of course, let's not jump to any distorted conclusion about Sarah's chowing patterns; I imagine Freddie probably eats like a bird, don't you think?
  • Despite eating like a horse recently my weight has continued to plummet.

eat someone out of house and home

informal Eat a lot of someone else’s food.
Example sentences
  • This will help solve the problem of what to eat for lunch but will protect the employer from having workers eat him out of house and home, since the charge for food will both reduce consumption and also provide income.
  • Then there comes a time when the children grow into teenagers and you think that will eat you out of house and home, but there is light of the end of the tunnel!
  • They ate us out of house and home, we have no hamburgers left and we ran out of cheese and onion rolls, but we're famous for that.

eat one's words

Retract what one has said, especially in a humiliated way: they will eat their words when I win
More example sentences
  • You can eat your words now because they have defied you and all of the doubting media army.
  • I'm glad to report that they have been made to eat their words.
  • And now, you know, they saw it, and now they can eat their words.

have someone eating out of one's hand

Have someone completely under one’s control.
Example sentences
  • He has everyone's respect because of his charisma and the young guys on the training pitch - he has us eating out of his hand.
  • Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand.
  • Laidlaw had Jack eating out of his hand, especially when he offered him a wee trip round the Cote d' Azur in his yacht.

I'll eat my hat

informal Used to indicate that one thinks the specified thing is extremely unlikely to happen: if he comes back, I’ll eat my hat
More example sentences
  • If places like Scarborough and Doncaster don't benefit from that I'll eat my hat.
  • If you do all that, and still don't get an A, I'll eat my hat.
  • If London is still standing in the year 2020, I'll eat my hat.

Phrasal verbs


eat away at (or eat something away)

Erode or destroy something gradually: the sun and wind eat away at the ice prevents bone from being eaten away
More example sentences
  • The timbers have been eaten away by what Mr Fox calls ‘radioactive seepage’.
  • In that time literally millions of bombs have rained down on the soft Holderness earth - and now they are all being exposed as the cliffs are eaten away by the sea.
  • The stone blocks had been eaten away by time and now were only a shadow of their former glory.
erode, corrode, wear away/down/through, burn through, consume, dissolve, disintegrate, crumble, decay;
damage, destroy
1.1Use up (profits, resources, or time), especially when they are intended for other purposes: inflation can eat away at the annuity’s value over the years
More example sentences
  • Offering salespeople the right incentives to sell offshore deals eats away at lucrative margins.
  • There's something eating away at the global economy, creatures chomping through trillions of dollars.
  • There is some truth in the accusation that the offshore world eats away at government revenue.

eat into

another way of saying eat away at .
Example sentences
  • Of course, charges and inflation are both eating into the profit.
  • Lending will expand at a faster rate because the lower interest rates are eating into banks' revenues from government bonds.
  • The fear was that higher interest rates will eat into corporate earnings, slash investment spending and lead to job losses.

eat someone up

(usually as adjective eaten up) Dominate the thoughts of someone completely: I’m eaten up with guilt
More example sentences
  • If I go through the rest of my life hating the people who killed my son and letting that eat me up and destroy me, that will happen to my children too.
  • You want to be there the whole time, it just eats you up inside when you're not there.
  • Yet, finally her inner loneliness is eating her up, the feeling that she belongs nowhere, an outcast among the outcastes.

eat something up

Use resources or time in very large quantities: an operating system that eats up 200Mb of disk space
More example sentences
  • The administrative resources of voluntary organizations are eaten up by site visits from auditors, sometimes different teams from the same department who have no knowledge of the other's visit.
  • All of the city's loose change for the next three years will be eaten up by the police.
  • But we moved in a budget year where we hadn't planned to move, so there were problems with the cost of moving and renovations, and any surplus was eaten up by the old space.
4.1Encroach on something: this is the countryside that villagers fear will be eaten up by concrete
More example sentences
  • Now so much of it is eaten up by concrete, and the rest has become a slum.
  • He whispered it again - war is coming - and then slipped off like a shadow does when darkness eats it up.


Old English etan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch eten and German essen, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin edere and Greek edein.

  • For such a fundamental concept, it is unsurprising that eat is an Old English word, with an ancient root shared by Latin edere ‘to eat’. This is the source not only of edible (late 16th century), but also comestible (Late Middle English) ‘something edible’, edacious (early 19th century), a rare word for ‘greedy’, and obese (mid 17th century) from obedere ‘eat completely’. There are many phrases associated with eating. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die is a combination of two Biblical sayings, ‘A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat and to drink, and to be merry’ (Ecclesiastes) and ‘Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die’ (Isaiah). You are what you eat is a proverb that first appeared in English in the 1920s. It is a translation of the German phrase Der Mensch ist, was er isst, ‘Man is what he eats’, which was said by the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72). If you eat your heart out you suffer from excessive longing or grief. As eat your own heart the phrase was first used in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1596): ‘He could not rest; but did his stout heart eat.’ See also fret

Words that rhyme with eat

accrete, autocomplete, beet, bittersweet, bleat, cheat, cleat, clubfeet, compete, compleat, complete, conceit, Crete, deceit, delete, deplete, discreet, discrete, effete, élite, entreat, escheat, estreat, excrete, feat, feet, fleet, gîte, greet, heat, leat, leet, Magritte, maltreat, marguerite, meat, meet, meet-and-greet, mesquite, mete, mistreat, neat, outcompete, peat, Pete, petite, pleat, receipt, replete, sangeet, seat, secrete, sheet, skeet, sleet, splay-feet, street, suite, sweet, teat, treat, tweet, wheat

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: eat

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There are 2 main definitions of eat in English:

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Entry from British & World English dictionary


Tanzania (international vehicle registration).


From East Africa Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: EAT

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