pontifex

pontifex

[pon-tuh-feks]
noun, plural pontifices [pon-tif-uh-seez] . Roman Religion.
a member of the Pontifical College, which was presided over by a chief priest (Pontifex Maximus)

Origin:
1570–80; < Latin: apparently literally, path-maker, equivalent to ponti- (stem of pōns) bridge, probably orig., path (see pons) + -fec- (combining form of facere to make) + -s nominative singular ending; the literal application is unclear

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World English Dictionary
pontifex (ˈpɒntɪˌfɛks)
 
n , pl pontifices
(in ancient Rome) any of the senior members of the Pontifical College, presided over by the Pontifex Maximus
 
[C16: from Latin, perhaps from Etruscan but influenced by folk etymology as if meaning literally: bridge-maker, from pons bridge + -fex from facere to make]

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Word Origin & History

pontifex
member of the supreme college of priests in ancient Rome, 1579, from L. pontifex, probably from pont-, stem of pons "bridge" + -fex, -ficis, root of facere "make." If so, the word originally meant "bridge-maker," or "path-maker." Weekley points out that, "bridge-building has always been regarded as a
pious work of divine inspiration." Or the term may be metaphoric of bridging the earthly world and the realm of the gods. Other suggestions trace it to Oscan-Umbrian puntis "propitiary offering," or to a lost Etruscan word, in either case altered by folk-etymology to resemble the L. for "bridge-maker."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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