• Pope


    • UK enPR: pōp, IPA: /pəʊp/
    • US IPA: /poÊŠp/
    • Rhymes: -əʊp

    Origin 1

    Alternative forms

    From Middle English pope, popa, from Old English pāpa, from Vulgar Latin papa ("title for priests & bishops, esp. & by 8th c. only the bishop of Rome"), from early Byzantine Greek παπᾶς (papâs, "title for priests & bishops, especially by 3rd c. the bishop of Alexandria"), from late Ancient Greek πάπας (pápas, "title for priests & bishops, in the sense of spiritual father"), from πάππας (páppas, "papa, daddy").

    Full definition of pope



    (plural popes)
    1. (Roman Catholicism & generally) An honorary title of the Roman Catholic bishop of Rome as father and head of his church.
      • ante 950, translating Bede's Ecclesiastical History (Tanner), iv. i. 252Þa wæs in þa tid Uitalius papa þæs apostolican seðles aldorbiscop.
      • 1959 August 19, Flannery O'Connor, letter in Habit of Being (1980), 347The Pope is not going to issue a bull condemning the Spanish Church's support of France and destroy the Church's right to exist in Spain.
      • 2007 May 5, Ted Koppel guest, Wait, Wait... Don’t tell me!, National Public RadioI really did want to interview the pope. Any pope. I'm not particular.
      1. (by extension, now often ironic) Any similarly absolute and 'infallible' authority.
        • 1689, G. Bulkeley, People's Right to Election in Andros Tracts (1869), II. 106We often say, that every man has a pope in his belly.
        • 1893 January 19, Nation (N.Y.), 46/3Edward Burne-Jones... accepted him as the infallible Pope of Art.
        • 1972 June 2, Science, 966/2Both discoveries were rejected offhand by the popes of the field.
      2. (by extension) Any similar head of a religion.
        • circa 1400 John Mandeville, Travels (Titus C.xvi, 1919), 205In þat yle dwelleth the Pope of hire lawe, þat þei clepen lobassy.
        • 1787, A. Hawkins translating Vincent Mignot as The history of the Turkish, or Ottoman Empire, IV.Mufti, the Mahometan pope or chief of the religion.
        • 2005 April 6, Kansas City Star, b7Although Islam has no formal hierarchy of clergy, Tantawy Egypt's grand imam often is called the Muslim pope.
      3. (uncommon) A theocrat, a priest-king, including at first especially over the imaginary land of Prester John or now in figurative and alliterative uses.
      4. (UK) An effigy of the pope traditionally burnt in Britain on Guy Fawkes' Day and occasionally at other times.
        • 1674, George Hickes, Letters sent from beyond the Seas, 27Gazet of England came full charged with the News of Burning the Pope in Effigie at London.
        • 1713, J. Arbuthnot, Invitation to Peace, 7It shall also be permitted to the said Jacob to assist at the Buying, Dressing, and burning the Pope.
        • 1828, William Carr, The Dialect of Craven 2nd ed.Pope, a long pole, to which an effigy of the Pope was attached and burnt on the 5th of Nov.
      5. (US, obsolete) Pope Day, the present Guy Fawkes Day.
      6. (Coptic Church) An honorary title of the Coptic bishop of Alexandria as father and head of his church.
      7. (Eastern Orthodoxy) An honorary title of the Orthodox bishop of Alexandria as father and head of his autocephalous church.
      8. (Christianity, historical, obsolete) Any bishop of the early Christian church.
        • 1563, 2nd Tome Homelyes, sig. Hh.iAll notable Bishops were then called popes.
        • 1703, translating U. Chevreau as Hist. World, III. v. 379All Bishops in that time had the Stile of Pope given them, as now we call every one of them, My Lord.
      9. (UK, zoology) The ruffe, a small Eurasian freshwater fish (); others of its genus.
        • 1653, I. Walton, Compl. Angler, Table sig. A8vDirections how and with what baits to fish for the Ruffe or Pope.
        • 1905 March, Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, 220/2There is an insignificant little fish... known in Britain as the pope or ruffe.
      10. (UK regional, zoology, obsolete) The grain weevil ().
        • 1658, J. Rowland translating T. Moffet as Theater of Insects in Topsell's Hist. Four-footed Beasts, 1086The English call the Wheat-worm Kis, Pope, Bowde, Weevil and Wibil.
        • 1743, W. Ellis, Suppl. to London & Country Brewer 2nd ed., 259At Winchester they call this Insect the weevil, Pope, Black-bob, or Creeper.
        • 1847, J. O. Halliwell, Dictionary of Archaic & Provincial Words, II. 637/2Popes, weevils. Urry gives this as a Hampshire word, in his MS. adds. to Ray.
      11. (UK regional, zoology) The Atlantic puffin ().
      12. (US regional, zoology) The painted bunting ().
        • 1763, translating A. Le Page du Pratz's Hist. Louisiana, II. 93The Pope le Pape is a bird that has a red and black plumage.
        • 1945 February, American Speech, 49The English-speaking people of New Orleans call the bird the painted bunting ‘pop’.
      13. (UK regional, zoology) The bullfinch ().
        • 1864, N. & Q. 3rd series, 5 124/2Pope, Nope, Alp, Red-Hoop, and Tony-Hoop, are all provincial appellations of... the common Bullfinch.
        • 1885, C. Swainson, Provincial Names for British Birds, 66Bullfinch... From Alp, the old name for the bird used in Ray's time, the following seem to be derived:—Hoop, or Hope... Pope (Dorset). Hope and Mwope are identical, as also Pope.
        • 1963, R. M. Nance, Glossary of Cornish Sea-words, 129‘Pope’ is in Dorset a bullfinch.
        • 2001 April 10, Western Morning News (Plymouth), 26Bullfinches are known as hoops in the Westcountry, from their calls, and as mawps and popes.
      14. (UK regional, zoology, obsolete) The red-backed shrike ().
        • 1885, C. Swainson, Provincial Names of British Birds, 47Red-backed shrike... Pope (Hants).

    Usage notes

    In English usage, originally and generally taken to refer to the bishop of Rome, although the Egyptian title is actually older. Within the Coptic church, the patriarch of Alexandria is normally styled Pope ~; within the Eastern Orthodox church, their separate patriarch of Alexandria is formally titled Pope of Alexandria but referred to as such only in the liturgy and official documents.

    Coordinate terms



    1. (intransitive or with 'it') To act as or like a pope.
      • 1537, T. Cromwell in R. B. Merriman, Life & Lett. Cromwell (1902), II. 89Paul popith Jolyly, that woll desire the worlde to pray for the kinges apeyrement.
      • 1624, R. Montagu, Gagg for New Gospell? xiii. 95Pope Urban VIII, that now Popeth it.
      • 1966 February, Duckett's Reg., 14/2Pope John XXIII would pope it in his own way, God guiding him.
      • 1989 September 24, Los Angeles Times, iii. 22/1I saw where the Pope poped and where the pigeons flocked. Pretty interesting if you're Catholic and like pigeons.
    2. (intransitive, colloquial) To convert to Roman Catholicism.
      • circa 1916 in Evelyn Waugh's Life R. Knox (1959), ii. i. 142I'm not going to ‘Pope’ until after the war (if I'm alive).
      • 1990 October 7, Sunday Telegraph, 26/5A prominent Anglican priest had, to use the term generally employed on these occasions, ‘Poped’—that is, left the Church of England in order to become a Roman Catholic.

    Origin 2

    By analogy with bishop ("mulled and spiced wine").



    (plural popes)
    1. (alcoholic beverages) Any mulled wine (traditionally including tokay) considered similar and superior to bishop.
      • 1855, C. W. Johnson, Farmer's & Planter's Encycl. Rural Affairs, 1157/1When made with Burgundy or Bordeaux, the mixture was called Bishop; when with old Rhenish, its name was Cardinal; and when with Tokay, it was dignified with the title of Pope.
      • 1920, G. Saintsbury, Notes on Cellar-bk., xi. 162‘Pope’, i.e. mulled burgundy, is Antichristian, from no mere Protestant point of view.
      • 1965, O. A. Mendelsohn, Dict. Drink, 264Pope, a spiced drink made from tokay..., ginger, honey and roasted orange.
      • 1976 January 15, Times (London), 12/8Many of these hot drinks have clerical names—Bishop being a type of mulled port, Cardinal using claret, and Pope Champagne.

    Origin 3

    From Russian поп, from Old Church Slavonic попъ, from Byzantine Greek as above.



    (plural popes)
    1. (Russian Orthodoxy) , a Russian Orthodox priest.
      • 1662, J. Davies translating A. Olearius as Voy. & Trav. Ambassadors, 139The other Ecclesiastical Orders are distinguish'd into Proto-popes, Popes, (or Priests) and Deacons.
      • 1756, Compend. Authentic & Entertaining Voy., V. 202Every priest is called pope, which implies father.
      • 1996 September 20, Daily Telegraph, 25/5In the non-Roman rites diocesan priests are often referred to as popes.

    Origin 4



    (plural popes)
    1. (US dialectical, zoology, obsolete) The whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vociferus).
      • 1781, S. Peters, Gen. Hist. Connecticut, 257The Whipperwill has so named itself by its nocturnal songs. It is also called the pope, by reason of its darting with great swiftness, from the clouds almost to the ground, and bawling out Pope!
    2. (US dialectical, zoology, rare) The nighthawk (Chordeiles minor).
      • 1956, Massachusetts Audubon Soc. Bull., 40 81Common Nighthawk... Pope (Connecticut. From the sound made by its wings while dropping through the air).


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