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See more synonyms for pontifices on Thesaurus.com
  1. plural of pontifex.
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noun, plural pon·tif·i·ces [pon-tif-uh-seez] /pɒnˈtɪf əˌsiz/. Roman Religion.
  1. a member of the Pontifical College, which was presided over by a chief priest (Pontifex Maximus).
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Origin of pontifex

1570–80; < Latin: apparently literally, path-maker, equivalent to ponti- (stem of pōns) bridge, probably orig., path (see pons) + -fec- (combining form of facere to make) + -s nominative singular ending; the literal application is unclear
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for pontifices

Historical Examples

  • I delivered a speech before the pontifices on the 29th of September.

    The Letters of Cicero, Volume 1

    Marcus Tullius Cicero

  • The chief of the pontifices, the Pontifex Maximus, was at the head of the college.

  • The oversight of the manner of worship was the special duty of the pontifices.

  • Like the pontifices, the augurs also had their books, libri augurales.

  • The pontifices had the general oversight of religious observances.

    Cato Maior de Senectute

    Marcus Tullius Cicero

British Dictionary definitions for pontifices


noun plural pontifices (pɒnˈtɪfɪˌsiːz)
  1. (in ancient Rome) any of the senior members of the Pontifical College, presided over by the Pontifex Maximus
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Word Origin

C16: from Latin, perhaps from Etruscan but influenced by folk etymology as if meaning literally: bridge-maker, from pons bridge + -fex from facere to make
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 pontifices



member of the supreme college of priests in ancient Rome, 1570s, from Latin pontifex "high priest, chief of the priests," probably from pont-, stem of pons "bridge" (see pons) + -fex, -ficis, root of facere "make" (see factitious). If so, the word originally meant "bridge-maker," or "path-maker."

Weekley points out that, "bridge-building has always been regarded as a pious work of divine inspiration." Or the term may be metaphoric of bridging the earthly world and the realm of the gods. Other suggestions trace it to Oscan-Umbrian puntis "propitiary offering," or to a lost Etruscan word, in either case altered by folk etymology to resemble the Latin for "bridge-maker." In Old English, pontifex is glossed in the Durham Ritual (Old Northumbrian dialect) as brycgwyrcende "bridge-maker."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper