member of the supreme college of priests in ancient Rome, 1570s, from Latin pontifex "high priest, chief of the priests," probably from pont-, stem of pons "bridge" (see pons) + -fex "maker," from facere "to do, make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").
If so, the word originally meant "bridge-maker," or "path-maker." It was felt as such; the sense of "bridge-builder" was in the Medieval Latin word, and Milton uses pontifical (adj.) in this sense. Sense was extended in Church Latin to "a bishop," in Medieval Latin to "the Pope." In Old English, pontifex is glossed in the Durham Ritual (Old Northumbrian dialect) as brycgwyrcende "bridge-maker."
Weekley points out that, "bridge-building has always been regarded as a pious work of divine inspiration." Century Dictionary speculates it had its origins as "having charge of the making or maintenance of a bridge — it is said of the Sublician bridge built over the Tiber by Ancus Marcius." 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 it would have been altered by folk etymology to resemble the Latin for "bridge-maker."
early 15c., "tenure of a pope;" 1680s, "time during which a pontifical office is held by a particular incumbent," from Old French pontificat and directly from Latin pontificatus "office of a pontiff," from pontifex (see pontifex).
c. 1600, "high priest," from French pontif (early 16c.), from Latin pontifex, title of a Roman high priest (see pontifex). Used for "bishop" in Church Latin, but not recorded in that sense in English until 1670s, specifically "the bishop of Rome," the pope. Pontifical, however, is used with reference to the pope from mid-15c.
early 15c., "of or pertaining to a high church official;" mid-15c., "of or pertaining to the Pope of Rome," from Old French pontifical and directly from Latin pontificalis "of or pertaining to the high priest," from pontifex "high priest," also "bridge-builder" (see pontifex). Hence pontificalia "trappings of a bishop." Earlier pontifical was used as a noun meaning "episcopal or papal edict" (late 14c.); "vestments of a high ecclesiastic" (c. 1400). Related: Pontific (1640s in the ancient Roman sense, by 1716 in the Christian sense).
*dhē-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to set, put."
It forms all or part of: abdomen; abscond; affair; affect (v.1) "make a mental impression on;" affect (v.2) "make a pretense of;" affection; amplify; anathema; antithesis; apothecary; artifact; artifice; beatific; benefice; beneficence; beneficial; benefit; bibliothec; bodega; boutique; certify; chafe; chauffeur; comfit; condiment; confection; confetti; counterfeit; deed; deem; deface; defeasance; defeat; defect; deficient; difficulty; dignify; discomfit; do (v.); doom; -dom; duma; edifice; edify; efface; effect; efficacious; efficient; epithet; facade; face; facet; facial; -facient; facile; facilitate; facsimile; fact; faction (n.1) "political party;" -faction; factitious; factitive; factor; factory; factotum; faculty; fashion; feasible; feat; feature; feckless; fetish; -fic; fordo; forfeit; -fy; gratify; hacienda; hypothecate; hypothesis; incondite; indeed; infect; justify; malefactor; malfeasance; manufacture; metathesis; misfeasance; modify; mollify; multifarious; notify; nullify; office; officinal; omnifarious; orifice; parenthesis; perfect; petrify; pluperfect; pontifex; prefect; prima facie; proficient; profit; prosthesis; prothesis; purdah; putrefy; qualify; rarefy; recondite; rectify; refectory; sacrifice; salmagundi; samadhi; satisfy; sconce; suffice; sufficient; surface; surfeit; synthesis; tay; ticking (n.); theco-; thematic; theme; thesis; verify.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit dadhati "puts, places;" Avestan dadaiti "he puts;" Old Persian ada "he made;" Hittite dai- "to place;" Greek tithenai "to put, set, place;" Latin facere "to make, do; perform; bring about;" Lithuanian dėti "to put;" Polish dziać się "to be happening;" Russian delat' "to do;" Old High German tuon, German tun, Old English don "to do."
1818, "to act as a pontiff, say pontifical Mass," from Medieval Latin pontificatus, past participle of pontificare "to be a pontifex," from Latin pontifex (see pontiff). Especially "to assume pompous and dignified airs, issue dogmatic decrees" (1825). Meaning "to say (something) in a pompous or dogmatic way" is from 1922. Related: Pontificated; pontificating.
"patrician form of marriage in ancient Rome," c. 1600, from Latin confarreationem (nominative confarreatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of confarreare "to unite in marriage by the Ceremony of the Cake," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + far, farris "spelt, grain, meal," which is probably from PIE root *bhars- "bristle, point, projection" (see bristle (n.)).
In ancient Rome, the most solemn form of marriage, in which an offering of salted bread (pannis farreus) was made in the presence of the Pontifex Maximus and 10 witnesses. It fell into general disuse early in the Empire.