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

Other Words from pontificate


pontification \ (ˌ)pän-​ˌti-​fə-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce pontificate (audio) \ noun
pontificator \ pän-​ˈti-​fə-​ˌkā-​tər How to pronounce pontificate (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 late 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
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Many of our provocateurs pontificate because their egos are overblown; with her casual humility, Atwood is taking risks unbefitting of a nice old lady. Los Angeles Times, 24 Feb. 2022 And McKinsey doesn't pontificate on who should foot the bill; whether its government subsidies, corporate taxes, or consumer wallets. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, 26 Jan. 2022 As members of Congress do what members of Congress do best—pontificate, bicker, barely pass any legislation—state legislatures could be the primary battlegrounds for tech legislation in 2022, Axios reports. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 4 Jan. 2022 So while Duterte will get to pontificate, Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize and has been jailed and harassed by Duterte's government, also spoke Wednesday. Conor Finnegan, ABC News, 9 Dec. 2021 What's a three-letter word that prompts parents to pontificate and teens to plug their ears when their parents bring it up? David Oliver, USA TODAY, 5 Aug. 2021 An attorney and former public affairs TV host on public access, Fish loved to pontificate on issues of national or local importance. oregonlive, 11 Aug. 2021 Lawmakers use their time to pontificate as if on the campaign trail. WSJ, 6 Aug. 2021 Many analysts see Francis’ pontificate as the restoration of engagement with the modern world after three decades of leadership by conservative popes. BostonGlobe.com, 16 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For Francis, 85, the war has become a second epochal event, after the pandemic, that has come to define the agenda of his pontificate. BostonGlobe.com, 20 May 2022 For Francis, 85, the war has become a second epochal event, after the pandemic, that has come to define the agenda of his pontificate. Stefano Pitrelli, Washington Post, 20 May 2022 In March, 2020, the Vatican opened its archives pertaining to the pontificate of Pius XII. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, 21 Dec. 2021 As pope, Benedict extended the statute of limitations for abuse of minors and Vatican judges during his pontificate hardly ever reduced the sentences of defrocked abusers on appeal. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, 8 Feb. 2022 One of the cases in question was reported during Benedict’s pontificate, in 2010. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, 8 Feb. 2022 The gathering devoted more attention to the region’s environmental challenges, a signature cause of the current pontificate. Samantha Pearson, WSJ, 11 Jan. 2022 Among the topics addressed by the pope during the trip was the question of the suffering of immigrants, which has been a main focus of this pontificate. The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Mar. 2021 Many of his remarks Monday were familiar, as Francis hit on themes at the center of his pontificate, including climate change and migration, while also drawing attention to a series of global hotspots like Yemen and Syria. Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

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

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pontifical ring



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Cite this Entry

“Pontificate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pontificate. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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