AskDefine | Define pontificate

Dictionary Definition

pontificate n : the government of the Roman Catholic Church [syn: papacy]


1 administer a pontifical office
2 talk in a dogmatic and pompous manner; "The new professor always pontificates"

User Contributed Dictionary


Etymology 1

From Latin pontificatus, from pontifex, literally ‘bridge-builder’, from pons ‘bridge’ + facere ‘make’.


  • a RP /pɒnˈtɪfɪkət/
  • a US /pɑːnˈtɪfɪkət/


  1. The state or term of office of a pontiff or pontifex.

Etymology 2

From the past participle stem of mediaeval Latin pontificare ‘pontificate’, from Latin pontifex, literally ‘bridge-builder’, from pons ‘bridge’ + facere ‘make’.


  • a RP /pɒnˈtɪfɪkeɪt/
  • a US /pɑːnˈtɪfɪkeɪt/


  1. To preside as a bishop, especially at mass.
  2. To act like a pontiff; to express one's position or opinions dogmatically and pompously as if it is absolutely correct.
  3. To speak in a patronizing, supercilious or pompous manner, especially at length.
* 2007, New York Times
  • During a policy discussion awhile back about New York issues, when Mr. Clinton began to pontificate, she told him that he did not exactly know what he was talking about and to hush up.
to preside as a bishop (1) to act like a pontiff (2) to speak in a patronizing, supercilious or pompous manner (3)



  1. Form of Second-person plural imperative, pontificare#Italian|pontificare

Extensive Definition

Pontiff or Pontificate was a title of certain religious leaders, now used principally to refer to the Pope.


The term derives from the French word pontife, from the Latin pontifex, a title used for high priests of the Roman Empire. The word pontifex is commonly held to derive from the Latin root words pons, "bridge" + facere, "to do" or "to make", with a literal meaning of "bridge-builder". This, however, is disputed - it may be only a folk etymology. See Pontifex Maximus for more details on the original Roman term.

Usage in the Catholic Church

Pontiffs were originally simply chiefs or high priests of any religion; thus writers from the 16th through to the 18th centuries referred equally to Christian pontiffs (bishops) and "Mahometan [Muslim] Pontiffs" (caliphs) or Swami ( Hindu ). Over time, however, the term became associated with the highest religious authority in the Catholic Church — the Pope. It is often modified by an adjective - for instance, "Supreme Pontiff", "Sovereign Pontiff", "Roman Pontiff" - to distinguish the Pope from "ordinary" pontiffs.
In the modern era, the modifying adjective is usually dropped, with the term being used exclusively to refer to the Pope, as in "The Pope visited Cuba in 1998, the first visit by a reigning pontiff to the island."


pontificate in Bulgarian: Понтифекс
pontificate in German: Pontifex
pontificate in Spanish: Pontífice
pontificate in French: Pontife
pontificate in Latin: Pontifex
pontificate in Dutch: Pontifex
pontificate in Polish: Pontyfikat
pontificate in Finnish: Pontifikaatti

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1