Word Origin & History
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."