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[pon-tuh-feks] /ˈpɒn təˌfɛks/
noun, plural pontifices
[pon-tif-uh-seez] /pɒnˈtɪf əˌsiz/ (Show IPA).
Roman Religion
a member of the Pontifical College, which was presided over by a chief priest (Pontifex Maximus)
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for pontifex


noun (pl) pontifices (pɒnˈtɪfɪˌsiːz)
(in ancient Rome) any of the senior members of the Pontifical College, presided over by the Pontifex Maximus
Word Origin
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
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for 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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