[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
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."