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I recently got called incredibly pontificious - Is this a word?

I know pontificate is a word, but searching for 'pontificious' returns no actual definition of the word, not even usage in a sentence. He was adamant the reason for this is its such a rare word it won’t be used, but I’d assume someone, somewhere would have defined it or used it in a sentence if it was.

Hence why I felt it may not have been used correctly.

I have, admittedly, done a basic google search and looked a couple of online dictionaries but online results from google searches return nothing clear. Searching in the Cambridge dictionary sends me to pontificate and a search in Webster’s yields no results.  

So, is it a word? If I was being pompous and dogmatic, how should he have described me?

If it is a word, why can't I find a simple definition of it?

closed as off-topic by Dan Bron, lbf, JJJ, KJO, jimm101 Jun 17 at 16:39

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    Hello, Elliot. If you look at the Help Center, you will see that reasonable research and evidence of reasonable research are both required to accompany a good question here on ELU. Which dictionaries have you tried? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 12 at 10:41
  • @EdwinAshworth To be fair to the OP a basic Google search on that word doesn't show anything concrete (as they said): no online dictionary results (other than those that say "we can't find that word"), this question and a spellchecker site that says it's spelt correctly but doesn't define it. However, the OED does list it (as obsolete) with citations back to 1624. – TripeHound Jun 12 at 10:59
  • Triple Hound has done the same as what I have. I don't have any physical dictionaries (I doubt most people do) at hand to check each one, but online results from google searches return nothing. Searching in the Cambirdge dictionary sends me to pontificate and a searching in Webster’s yields no results. – Elliot Newton Jun 12 at 11:20
  • @EdwinAshworth: Eliott has shown enough evidence of research, if you ask me. I have flagged your comment as unfriendly because it is unwelcoming. – Cerberus Jun 12 at 23:47
  • @Cerberus If you are referencing 'Searching in the Cambridge dictionary sends me to pontificate and a search in Webster’s yields no results' , if my memory serves me right that appeared after my comment. I detect a note of hostility. Have I made a comment elsewhere not to your liking? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 13 at 12:40
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Pontificious does indeed exist, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:


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But it is obsolete. The word pontifical, however, is still in use:


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There is also pontificial, which can be used in the same sense.

  • Ok. Thank you. I guess you have to subcribe to use the OED search. My research did stumble upon a meaning of the word that was related to religion, but I guess the context he used it may not be a correct in modern day standards. – Elliot Newton Jun 12 at 11:56
  • @ElliotNewton: You can also find version of the Oxford English Dictionary online, such as those which can be used in Golden Dictionary and the like. – Cerberus Jun 12 at 16:04
  • are those screen shots from the full version? online? offline? doesn't look like oed.com – Toothrot Jun 12 at 16:41
  • @Toothrot: Offline. It's from Golden Dictionary. – Cerberus Jun 12 at 23:45
  • I have never heard of the Golden Dictionary. I did try OED, but I needed a subscription to search for a term. – Elliot Newton Jun 13 at 8:33
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In addition to the answer by Cerberus, an internet search of "pontificious" revealed the following usages (my emphasis added):

The Power that makes them is originally in the Emperor; but is exercised also by the Pope, although some Lawyers of the Empire that are not Pontificious, quarrel at him for it, and leave it doubtful also whether the Empress, the King of the Romans, other kings, or the Princes Electors, may of themselves confer this dignity.

[Source: Titles of Honor, Volume 2, by John Selden, page 323; presumably the 1631 edition]

The Preface, shewing the first occasions, inducements, and maner, of the Authors conversion. The division of the Motives. 1. Into Motives out of the Pontificious Erroneous Doctrines. 2. Out of their dangerous and wicked Lawes.

[Source: The Motives of Richard Sheldon, by Richard Sheldon, 1612]

And there's also this recent paper giving further background:

The Oxford English dictionary is the basis of the Historical thesaurus of the Oxford English dictionary (2009), which is in effect a subject-ordered index to the dictionary, registering 800,000 lexical items in 235,000 entry categories. These categories ultimately fall under three highest-level headings, “the external world”, “the mind”, and “society”. A user can work down from these headings to find, for example, that “society” includes “religion”, which includes “church government”, which includes “clergyman”, which includes “clerical superior”, which includes “pope”, which includes a list of 21 adjectives with their dates of first attestation, from the fourteenth-century papal to the seventeenth-century pontificious and papizing, by way of the sixteenth-century antichristian, included on the strength of a quotation of 1585, “The head of the church Antichristian, is the Pope.”. The number of early modern forms in this list, and the absence of new forms after the seventeenth century, are both striking.

[Source: John Considine, English Dictionaries As Sources For Work In English Historical Linguistics: An Overview, in Studia Linguistica Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis 131 (2014): 27–41; p. 34]

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