Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



February 28th, 2015

Episode 121 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 28, 2015 is: pontificate \pahn-TIF-uh-kayt\ verb 1 a : to officiate as a pontiff b : to celebrate pontifical mass 2 : to speak or express opinions in a pompous or dogmatic way Examples: Stan loves to hear himself talk and will often pontificate on even the most trivial issues. "Though the game was another duda Patriots' blowout of the hapless Coltssports columnists worldwide were given a unique chance to pontificate on, of all things, the air pressure of footballs." Shelly Griffith, Daily Post-Athenian (Athens, Tennessee), January 30, 2015 Did you know? In ancient Rome, the pontifices were powerful priests who administered the part of civil law that regulated relationships with the deities recognized by the state. Their name, pontifex, derives from the Latin words pons, meaning "bridge," and facere, meaning "to make," and some think it may have developed because the group was associated with a sacred bridge over the river Tiber (although there is no proof of that). With the rise of Catholicism, the title pontifex was transferred to the Pope and to Catholic bishops. Pontificate derives from pontifex, and in its earliest English uses it referred to things associated with such prelates. By the late 1800s, pontificate was also being used derisively for individuals who spoke as if they had the authority of an ecclesiastic.