Definition of pontiff in English:


(also sovereign, supreme pontiff)


  • The Pope.

    ‘the Pope's first visit to Poland as pontiff’
    • ‘The Vatican said the pontiff has been cured of the flu-related breathing problems that landed him there.’
    • ‘The Pope made history yesterday by becoming the first pontiff to cross the Tiber to address the Italian parliament.’
    • ‘The last pope to hold the name of Benedict was an Italian whose reign from 1914 to 1922 encompassed World War I.’
    • ‘The pontiff called for a ‘resolute effort’ to resolve the plight of the refugees.’
    • ‘During the war and afterward, Jewish leaders lavishly praised the wartime pontiff.’
    • ‘The pontiff died at the Vatican in Rome on Saturday, aged 84.’
    • ‘The royal couple met with the new pontiff at the Vatican's summer residence in the Alban hills, south of Rome.’
    • ‘Earlier today, outside Cologne, the pontiff celebrated mass with up to 1 million young people.’
    • ‘Highly conservative in doctrine and bluntly liberal in his social views, the pontiff has galvanised the Church.’
    • ‘To the strains of an ancient crusader hymn, the princes of the church led the pontiff into the square.’
    • ‘Only three other pontiffs have led the Catholic church for as long as he did.’
    • ‘The late pontiff was also the first pope to step inside a synagogue in 1986 when he visited Rome's biggest synagogue.’
    • ‘He was also among the first world leaders to bend the knee before Pope Benedict XVI after the pontiff's elevation earlier this year.’
    • ‘He must arrange the funeral and burial of the Pope and direct the election of a new pontiff.’
    • ‘In addition, the pontiff hopes to visit Syria, Malta and Poland next year, according to Vatican sources.’
    • ‘Lay Catholics rarely petitioned their pontiff and never to suggest he take a certain stand on an issue.’
    • ‘Even then, the crowds at the Vatican were not certain they had a new pontiff until the bells of St Peter's rang out.’
    • ‘The pontiff had invited her to the Vatican to talk about family planning.’
    • ‘Next to the ground was a papal cross, which commemorated a visit by the pontiff.’
    • ‘In a letter addressed to priests around the world, the pontiff said he was profoundly hurt by what he called the most grievous form of evil.’


Late 17th century (denoting an early Christian bishop): from French pontife, from Latin pontifex (see pontifex).