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Etymology: from Latin pontifex, probably from pont-, stem of pons, "bridge" plus -fex, -ficis, root of facere "to make". If so, the word originally meant "bridge-maker", or "path-maker". 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.
Word Entries containing the term:
The chief or senior priest and head of the state religion of Rome; in this case, it is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church but to classical Rome.
At first he was probably required to be a patrician, but by the middle Republic era he was more than likely to be a plebeian. He supervised all of the various members of the priestly colleges—augurs, pontifices, other minor priests, and the Vestal Virgins.