Share this entry

pontifical Syllabification: pon·tif·i·cal
Pronunciation: /pänˈtifik(ə)l/

Definition of pontifical in English:


1(In the Roman Catholic Church) of or relating to the pope: a pontifical commission
More example sentences
  • The Catholic Church and the pontifical council are at the epicenter of ecumenism for many reasons, not least because well over half the Christians in the world are Catholics.
  • The Pope puts on his pontifical clericals - white soutane and skull cap.
  • He set up the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei (Church of God) to cater for supporters of the Tridentine Mass.
2Characterized by a pompous and superior air of infallibility: such explanations were greeted with pontifical disdain
More example sentences
  • It would be far better to have sharply contrasted views in succession, in alteration, than to have this copious stream of pontifical, anonymous mugwumpery with which we have been dosed for so long.
  • An era of incorporation fostered a pontifical tone in American arts criticism.
  • It is almost quaint that Isaacson, as he deconstructs the polemical and pontifical Time, is still thinking about people having debates and of journalism as the basis for social discourse.
pompous, cocksure, self-important, arrogant, superior;
opinionated, dogmatic, doctrinaire, authoritarian, domineering;
adamant, obstinate, stubborn, single-minded, inflexible


rare Back to top  
1(In the Roman Catholic Church) an office book of the Western Church containing rites to be performed by the pope or bishops.
Example sentences
  • In the recent revision of this part of the Pontifical a deliberate choice was made in this respect.
  • The Pontifical arranged by them served therefore as the basis for the Roman Pontifical of the Council of Trent published for the Latin Church in 1595-1596.
1.1 (pontificals) The vestments and insignia of a bishop, cardinal, or abbot: a bishop in full pontificals
More example sentences
  • The pontificals common to all are eight in number: buskins, sandals, gloves, dalmatic, tunicle, ring, pectoral cross, and mitre.
  • But more strictly and accurately, rubricians limit the pontificals to those ornaments which a prelate wears in celebrating pontifically.


Late Middle English: from Latin pontificalis, from pontifex (see pontifex).



Pronunciation: /-ik(ə)lē/
Example sentences
  • Considerable debate ensued over the next few years, resulting in Ratzinger's declaration on December 18, 1979, that Küng's mission canonica (his official license to teach at pontifically recognized institutions) had been revoked.
  • Computer-driven analysis based on past events derives metrics (I love that New Age word) which the rating agencies can use to pronounce pontifically (that means infallibly) on creditworthiness.
  • I remember somebody telling me once that as Adam was leaving the Garden of Eden he turned to Eve and remarked pontifically ‘My dear, this is an age of transition.’

Words that rhyme with pontifical

Talmudical • graphical

Definition of pontifical in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day exemplum
Pronunciation: ɪɡˈzɛmpləm
an example or model...