Word of the Week: Pontificate

Word: pontificate

Pronunciation: pahn-TI-fi-kayt

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: express one’s opinions in a way considered annoyingly pompous and dogmatic

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


You know, maybe if you hadn’t been sitting there pontificating about what a great parker you were, you might have got the space.
– Elaine Benes, Seinfeld (Season 3, Episode 22 – The Parking Space)

Oh yes, I still like to watch Seinfeld reruns from time to time! A few weeks ago, I made a note to write about a word I heard in the parking space episode, when Elaine criticizes George’s pausing to brag about his parking skills as the reason he’s now stuck in a deadlock with Kramer’s friend Mike. She definitely has a point; his inclination to “pontificate” certainly didn’t help him in this situation at all!

To “pontificate” is to express opinions in an irritatingly dogmatic and pompous way. The word arose in late Middle English as a noun, while the verb dates back to the early 19th century. This word comes from the Latin noun pontificatus “the office of pontiff”, which in turn stems from the noun pontifex “high priest”. This noun comprises two roots: the noun pons “bridge” and the verb facere “to make”.

Relating to the Roman Catholic Church, a alternative definition for this verb is to “officiate as bishop”, and the word can also be used as a noun in the sense “the office or period of office of a pope or bishop”. As a verb, “pontificate” likely originated in the sense “to act like a pontiff”, that is, “to express one’s opinions pompously and dogmatically as if they were absolutely correct”. If your characters tend to go on and on about their opinions in the most overbearing and arrogant way possible, “pontificate” may be the next great word you can add to your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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