[pon-tif-i-kuh l]


of, relating to, or characteristic of a pontiff; papal.
pompous, dogmatic, or pretentious: to resent someone's pontifical manner.


(in the Western Church) a book containing the forms for the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies to be performed by bishops.
pontificals, the vestments and other insignia of a pontiff, especially a bishop.

Origin of pontifical

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin pontificālis, equivalent to pontific- (stem of pontifex) pontifex + -ālis -al1
Related formspon·tif·i·cal·ly, adverbun·pon·tif·i·cal, adjectiveun·pon·tif·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for pontifical

papal, arrogant, dogmatic, overbearing, pompous, pretentious, puffy

Examples from the Web for pontifical

Contemporary Examples of pontifical

Historical Examples of pontifical

  • There was much of the Pontifical in me, for I was a rapt radical.

    An Anarchist Woman

    Hutchins Hapgood

  • I offer a friend a bottle of '44 claret, fit for a pontifical supper.

    Roundabout Papers

    William Makepeace Thackeray

  • Claude assumed the majestic and pontifical attitude of a Samuel.

  • Everything about him became, as it were, pontifical, almost sacramental.

    Obiter Dicta

    Augustine Birrell

  • But a railway the subjects of the Pontifical Government cannot have.

British Dictionary definitions for pontifical



of, relating to, or characteristic of a pontiff, the pope, or a bishop
having an excessively authoritative manner; pompous


RC Church Church of England a book containing the prayers and ritual instructions for ceremonies restricted to a bishop
See also pontificals
Derived Formspontifically, adverb
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 pontifical

early 15c., from Middle French pontifical and directly from Latin pontificalis "of or pertaining to the high priest," from pontifex (see pontifex). Hence pontificalia "trappings of a bishop."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper