pon·​tiff | \ ˈpän-təf How to pronounce pontiff (audio) \

Definition of pontiff

1 : pontifex
2 : bishop specifically, often capitalized : pope sense 1

Examples of pontiff in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

This week the 82-year-old pontiff is keeping that promise, making only his second trip to sub-Saharan Africa, which is by far the biggest area of expansion for Christianity. The Economist, "Why Pope Francis struggles in Africa," 7 Sep. 2019 Openly intervening in the family feuds of Rome’s rulers, the pontiffs also played a central role in the regional struggle for supremacy. National Geographic, "In 897, the corpse of a pope was exhumed—to be put on trial.," 20 Aug. 2019 Few people would ever have expected to dredge up the remains of a pontiff who, nine months after his death, was at the center of on of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the papacy: a posthumous trial of a corpse. National Geographic, "In 897, the corpse of a pope was exhumed—to be put on trial.," 20 Aug. 2019 Those old enough to remember often cite Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1981 as the most thrilling event of their lifetimes, memorialized by a bronze statue of the now-sainted pontiff designed to slowly rotate on a concrete pedestal. Washington Post, "Catholicism ingrained in daily life on US island of Guam," 10 Aug. 2019 The Lampedusa trip was Francis’ first official outing as pontiff, and it was taken as a powerful message about his priorities. Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times, "Judge in Italy Orders Release of Captain of Migrant-Rescue Ship," 2 July 2019 In meetings this spring at the pope’s residence, Mr. Cruz said the pontiff was sincere in wanting to tackle the crisis. Ryan Dube, WSJ, "Pope Francis’ Handling of Sex-Abuse Cases Fractures a Catholic Stronghold," 19 Oct. 2018 Few pontiffs before or since can claim to have had such influence. The Economist, "The most scandalous popes in history," 29 June 2019 Tens of thousands of faithful have been treated to gifts from the pontiff, tiny crucifixes, distributed by nuns, refugees and some of Rome's homeless and poor after the pope’s traditional Sunday appearance to pilgrims and tourists in the square. Nicole Winfield, Fox News, "Pope gives bishops more decision-making options," 18 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pontiff.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pontiff

1552, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for pontiff

French pontif, from Latin pontific-, pontifex

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Last Updated

9 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for pontiff

The first known use of pontiff was in 1552

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