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[pon-tif] /ˈpɒn tɪf/
any pontifex.
any high or chief priest.
  1. a bishop.
  2. the Roman Catholic pope, the Bishop of Rome.
Origin of pontiff
1600-10; earlier pontife < French, short for Latin pontifex pontifex Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for pontiff


a former title of the pagan high priest at Rome, later used of popes and occasionally of other bishops, and now confined exclusively to the pope
Word Origin
C17: from French pontife, from Latin pontifex
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pontiff

c.1600, "high priest," from French pontif (early 16c.), from Latin pontifex, title of a Roman high priest (see pontifex). Used for "bishop" in Church Latin, but not recorded in that sense in English until 1670s, specifically "the bishop of Rome," the pope. Pontifical, however, is used with this sense from mid-15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pontiff in Culture

pontiff definition

Another name for the pope. Pontiff comes from a Latin word, meaning “bridge builder,” that was used as a title for some of the priests of ancient Rome.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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