Catus amat piscem, sed non vult tingere plantam


The morning is bright and beautiful, and after yesterdays foray into the world of water butt automation, what better way to start the day than to parse some Latin?

I stumbled across the above by chance, and like many good sayings, it seems to have fallen out of use.

But don’t worry, we can resurrect it and use it in meetings, with our nearest and dearest and so on.

Catus amat piscem, sed non vult tingere plantam

The phrase looks like medieval Latin, and like many such sayings is straight-forward to parse and ideal for practice, diversion and learning a few new words such as catus (cat).

I can feel my vocabulary increasing already.

Lets parse away, and get on with the day …;)

Catus (cat) is a second declension masculine noun, which declines as follows in the singular:-

catus, cate, catum, cati, cato, cato.

It is in the nominative case, telling us that it is the subject of the verb:

amo, amare, amavi, amatus (to love)

which is a regular verb of the first conjugation.

For practice, it is conjugated as follows in the present:

amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.

giving us amat (he, she or it loves).

What do cats love? They love :-

piscis (fish) which is a masculine noun of the third declension and declines (in the singular) as follows:

piscis, piscis, piscem, piscis, pisci, pisce (or maybe pisci).

From this we can see that piscem is in the accusative case (as we would expect for the object of the verb).

Catus amat piscem (The cat loves fish).

As an aside the Italian, Romanian and Spanish words for fish, are pesce, pește and pez respectively.

And what don’t cats love?

sed non vult tingere plantam

thats what!

sed (but)

non (not)

Vult comes from the verb volo (to wish, want) which conjugates as follows (in the present):

volo, vis, vult, volumus, vultis, volunt

It is irregular, common and just has to be learnt, or at least recognised.

The t at the end of vult is a typical second person singular Latin ending.

We now have:-

sed non vult (but he or indeed she does not want) to tingere plantam!!

I didn’t know the meaning of tingere but as often turns out to be the case there is a relation an English word.

tingo, tingere, tinxi, tinctus (wet, moisten, dip or soak) as our metaphorical cat is loathe to do, also means

colour, dye, stain or …

TINT and so gives us tincture, tint, tinge and so on.

Who would have thought that tint comes from the stem of the Latin verb tingere? These are the kind of reasons that dabbling is Latin is rewarding – if you like this kind of stuff.

And not everyone does …

… which I understand but if you don’t I’m surprised that you are still reading;)

And now it only remains for us to look up the meaning of

planta (sole of foot).

This is a first declension feminine noun and declines as follows:-

planta, planta, plantam, plantae, plantae, planta

Plantam is the accusative from and the object of the verb which is what we would expect – as cats don’t like getting wet paws.

The literal translation of

Catus amat piscem, sed non vult tingere plantam


The cat likes or loves fish, but he or she does not want to wet (his or her) paws.

The more usual English form is:

The cat would eat fish and would not wet her feet.

This either means:

that often you have to do something unpleasant to get to do something that you want to do


that you don’t always do something unpleasant to get to do something that you want.

I have in the past (and I mean in the past) heard it used in both senses.

Finally, I started with an almost rhyme and so will end with an almost rhyme:

Parsing a Latin sentence a day, keeps boredom at bay.

I might work on these.

Besos, Pax & Baci,


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