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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for pontiff

pope, bishop, pontifex

Examples from the Web for pontiff

Contemporary Examples of pontiff

Historical Examples of pontiff

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 for pontiff

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

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

pontiff in Culture


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.