pon·​tif·​i·​cate | \ pän-ˈti-fə-ˌkāt How to pronounce pontificate (audio) \
pontificated; pontificating

Definition of pontificate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to speak or express opinions in a pompous or dogmatic way He does not pontificate about whether one ought to choose, if forced to it, to betray one's country rather than one's friends …— Robin W. Winks What these interviews generally come down to is an invitation to writers to pontificate upon things for which it is either unseemly for them to speak (the quality of their own work) or upon which they are unfit to judge (the state of the cosmos).— Joseph Epstein
2a : to officiate as a pontiff
b : to celebrate pontifical mass


pon·​tif·​i·​cate | \ pän-ˈti-fi-kət How to pronounce pontificate (audio) , -ˌkāt \

Definition of pontificate (Entry 2 of 2)

: the state, office, or term of office of a pontiff

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pontificate


pontification \ (ˌ)pän-​ˌti-​fə-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce pontification (audio) \ noun
pontificator \ pän-​ˈti-​fə-​ˌkā-​tər How to pronounce pontificator (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

In ancient Rome, the pontifices were powerful priests who administered the part of civil law that regulated relationships with the deities recognized by the state. Their name, pontifex, derives from the Latin words pons, meaning "bridge," and facere, meaning "to make," and some think it may have developed because the group was associated with a sacred bridge over the river Tiber (although there is no proof of that). With the rise of Catholicism, the title "pontifex" was transferred to the Pope and to Catholic bishops. Pontificate derives from "pontifex," and in its earliest English uses it referred to things associated with such prelates. By the early 1800s, "pontificate" was also being used derisively for individuals who spoke as if they had the authority of an ecclesiastic.

Examples of pontificate in a Sentence

Verb We had to listen to her pontificate about the best way to raise children. Noun He was elected to the pontificate last year. during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But this time, rather than the dull and pontificating sister of Austen’s work, Hadlow’s Mary perseveres. Joan Gaylord, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘The Other Bennet Sister’ asks ‘What if?’ about bookish Mary," 8 Apr. 2020 After that, the Senate trial can officially start Tuesday, and everyone can stop pontificating over what happens next. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for January 16: Impeachment, Russia, China, immigration, Syria," 16 Jan. 2020 Everybody knows the drama associated with her entrance, alongside James Hood, another African American student, as Gov. George Wallace pontificated and waved his arms for the television cameras and crowds of people shouted and clapped. Beth Thames | Bethmthames@gmail.com, al, "Daughter’s book gives insight into ‘growing up Wallace’," 12 Feb. 2020 Given half a chance, bubble-dwellers turn into mini Max Webers, pontificating on the essential differences between Catholic and Protestant Europe. The Economist, "Charlemagne Why stereotypes rule in Brussels," 11 Jan. 2020 Aircraft manufacturers and suppliers big and small will gather at the Paris Air Show next week to showcase new products and technologies, trumpet orders (both firm, tentative and recycled) and pontificate on the industry. Washington Post, "Planemakers Jet Off to Paris Air Show Under Growth Clouds," 17 June 2019 Or, conversely, some people may want to engage in a little showmanship, grandstanding and pontificating for the camera. Benny L. Kass, chicagotribune.com, "Can unit owners videotape condo board meetings?," 6 Sep. 2017 But in the spirit of the Edge Question that Brockman used to toss out for his crowd to pontificate on, here’s a Big Question: What ideas did Jeffrey Epstein shape? Adam Rogers, WIRED, "Jeffrey Epstein and the Power of Networks," 27 Aug. 2019 Second Saturday Wine Nights — Champagne & Port SAT Learn to taste and pontificate on rare bottles French Champagne and Port from Portugal, 8 p.m. Saturday, The Knife Room at Nordo, 103 S. Main St., Seattle; $40 (206-579-6215 or CafeNordo.com). Madeline Mckenzie, The Seattle Times, "Community calendar: Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, Winter Solstice Night Market, Jingle Bell Run," 5 Dec. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Catholics have watched and listened to him for weeks, as the pandemic has put both the Pope and the habits of their faith to a test—but also made the central themes of his pontificate especially apt. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, "Pope Francis and the Coronavirus Pandemic During the Easter Holy Week," 10 Apr. 2020 In 2013: Benedict XVI became the first pope in 600 years to resign, ending an eight-year pontificate. oregonlive, "Oregon House Democrats vote to subpoena boycotting Republicans ‘in extraordinary action’: Morning Briefing for Friday, Feb. 27," 28 Feb. 2020 Francis presided over the ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, elevating churchmen who share his pastoral concerns at a time when his pontificate is under fire from conservatives within the College of Cardinals itself. BostonGlobe.com, "Pope urges compassion in elevating 13 like-minded cardinals - The Boston Globe," 6 Oct. 2019 His defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse led to one of the biggest crises of his pontificate in 2018. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "French Court Overturns Cardinal’s Conviction for Failing to Report Child Sex Abuse," 30 Jan. 2020 Francis presided over the ceremony Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica, elevating churchmen who share his pastoral concerns at a time when his pontificate is under fire from conservatives within the College of Cardinals itself. Nicole Winfield, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pope urges compassion in elevating 13 likeminded cardinals," 6 Oct. 2019 Pope Francis has made overcoming the rift with Beijing a priority of his pontificate, although full diplomatic relations aren’t in sight. Eva Dou, WSJ, "Vatican Encourages Chinese Catholic Priests to Register With Beijing," 28 June 2019 Advocacy for migrants has been a signature issue for Pope Francis since the start of his pontificate. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Pope Brings Pro-Migrant Message to Central America," 24 Jan. 2019 Pope Francis established the council in 2013, the first year of his pontificate. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Pope Cuts Three Cardinals—Two Tainted by Scandal—From Council," 12 Dec. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of pontificate


1818, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pontificate


Medieval Latin pontificatus, past participle of pontificare, from Latin pontific-, pontifex


Middle English, from Latin pontificatus, from pontific-, pontifex

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pontificate

Time Traveler for pontificate

Time Traveler

The first known use of pontificate was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about pontificate

Statistics for pontificate

Last Updated

12 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pontificate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pontificate. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pontificate


How to pronounce pontificate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pontificate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

disapproving : to speak or express your opinion about something in a way that shows that you think you are always right


How to pronounce pontificate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pontificate (Entry 2 of 2)

: the position of a pope
: the period of time during which a particular person is pope

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on pontificate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pontificate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pontificate

Spanish Central: Translation of pontificate

Nglish: Translation of pontificate for Spanish Speakers

Comments on pontificate

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!