bish·​op ˈbi-shəp How to pronounce bishop (audio)
plural bishops
: someone having spiritual or ecclesiastical supervision over others: such as
: an Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic clergyperson ranking above a priest, having authority to ordain and confirm, and typically governing a diocese
: any of various Protestant clerical officials who superintend other clergy
: a Mormon high priest presiding over a ward or over all other bishops and over the Aaronic priesthood
: either of two pieces of each color in a set of chessmen having the power to move diagonally across any number of adjoining unoccupied squares
: mulled port wine flavored with oranges and cloves

Examples of bishop in a Sentence

the Bishop of New York
Recent Examples on the Web Hiram Delgado finds the poignancy in Marcela’s underachieving brother, and Carlos Castillo, as a bishop, deftly melds sternness and compassion. Celia Wren, Washington Post, 11 Sep. 2023 The pope typically appoints bishops, but the Communist government has long insisted on naming its own to more closely control the state-run church there. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 4 Sep. 2023 The Vatican and China did sign an accord in 2018 over the thorny issue of Catholic bishop nominations, but Beijing has violated it. Nicole Winfield and Saruul Enkhbold,, 3 Sep. 2023 On May 1 the situation became so dire that the bishop of Jaén, a city sometimes referred to as the world’s olive oil capital, took to the streets to lead Jaén’s first public prayer for rain in 74 years. Alessio Perrone, Scientific American, 31 Aug. 2023 The 2019 reversal of that policy allowed lay bishops to authorize the baptism of children of LGBTQ parents. The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 Aug. 2023 The bishop demanded a sign, and so the Virgin instructed Juan Diego to collect some flowers on a hill, place them in his tilma (a mantle or cloak), and bring them to the bishop. Jp Brammer, Los Angeles Times, 31 Aug. 2023 McCarrick was the first U.S. cardinal and only the second U.S. bishop to be charged with abuse. Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2023 The Catholic bishops in the United States have faced criticism over the 10 years of Pope Francis's pontificate for not wholeheartedly embracing the pope's more liberal approach to leading the Catholic Church than the more conservative popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II. Jeremiah Poff, Washington Examiner, 28 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bishop.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English bisshop, from Old English bisceop, from Late Latin episcopus, from Greek episkopos, literally, overseer, from epi- + skeptesthai to look — more at spy

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bishop was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near bishop

Cite this Entry

“Bishop.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


bish·​op ˈbish-əp How to pronounce bishop (audio)
: a high-ranking member of various sects of the Christian clergy usually in charge of a diocese
: a chess piece that moves diagonally

Old English bisceop "bishop," from Latin episcopus (same meaning), from Greek episkopos, literally, "overseer," from epi- "on, over" and skopos "watcher, goal, object" — related to episcopal, horoscope, scope

Word Origin
The Old English word bisceop, from which we get our modern English word bishop, comes to us from the Latin word episcopus. Like many other Latin words connected with religion and the church, this was borrowed from Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written. The Greek word episkopos, meaning literally "overseer," was first used of officials in government and later came to be used for church leaders. In the Bible the word meaning "bishop" and the word meaning "priest" were used for the same thing. It was not until much later that the bishop did indeed become overseer of a large district, or diocese.

Biographical Definition

Bishop 1 of 2

biographical name (1)

Bish·​op ˈbi-shəp How to pronounce Bishop (audio)
Elizabeth 1911–1979 American poet


2 of 2

biographical name (2)

J(ohn) Michael 1936–     American microbiologist
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