pon·​tif·​i·​cal | \ pän-ˈti-fi-kəl How to pronounce pontifical (audio) \

Definition of pontifical

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : episcopal attire specifically : the insignia of the episcopal order worn by a prelate when celebrating a pontifical mass usually used in plural
2 : a book containing the forms for sacraments and rites performed by a bishop



Definition of pontifical (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : of or relating to a pontiff or pontifex
b : celebrated by a prelate of episcopal rank with distinctive ceremonies pontifical mass
3 : pretentiously dogmatic

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Other Words from pontifical


pontifically \ pän-​ˈti-​fi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce pontifically (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for pontifical

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of pontifical in a Sentence

Adjective a theater critic known for his pontifical pronouncements on what is or is not worth seeing
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Since the Byzantine era, the most important footwear in the Catholic faith has been pontifical shoes and papal slippers: two related categories of laceless red shoe worn by the Bishop of Rome. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "The Normcore Opulence of Preachers Wearing Four-Figure Sneakers," 14 June 2019 Two more domes, which will open to tour groups in 2019, stand in the gardens, past the cows and chickens that contribute to the pontifical sup. Kyle Peterson, WSJ, "An Astronomer’s View of the Christmas Sky," 21 Dec. 2018 But unlike pontifical councils, which put out official documents on behalf of the church, these academies aim simply to continue dialogue on church teachings on various subjects. Yamiche Alcindor, New York Times, "Bernie Sanders Announces Plan for Speech at Vatican, and Clarifications Follow APRIL 8, 2016," 14 Apr. 2016 The opening movement was somewhat pontifical, with ominous, weighty orchestral chords and repeated choral exclamations. Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, "Review: Premieres, a Tribute and an Anniversary at Carnegie Hall," 1 May 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pontifical.' 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 pontifical


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for pontifical


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin pontificale, from neuter of pontificalis


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin pontificalis, from pontific-, pontifex

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The first known use of pontifical was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Pontifical.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pontifical. Accessed 22 November 2019.

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English Language Learners Definition of pontifical

formal : of, relating to, or coming from a pope

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Comments on pontifical

What made you want to look up pontifical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not agreeing with established beliefs

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