[ pon-tif ]
/ ˈpɒn tɪf /


any pontifex.
any high or chief priest.
  1. a bishop.
  2. the Roman Catholic pope, the Bishop of Rome.

Nearby words

  1. pontic,
  2. pontic mountains,
  3. pontics,
  4. pontifex,
  5. pontifex maximus,
  6. pontific,
  7. pontifical,
  8. pontifical college,
  9. pontifical mass,
  10. pontificals

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

Examples from the Web for pontiff

British Dictionary definitions for pontiff


/ (ˈpɒntɪf) /


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

Culture definitions for pontiff


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.