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Pope Pius VII, bishop of Rome, next to Cardinal Caprara. The Pope wears the pallium.

Alternative forms[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]

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).


pope (plural popes)

  1. (Roman Catholicism and 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. 252
      Þa wæs in þa tid Uitalius papa þæs apostolican seðles aldorbiscop.
    • 1959 August 19, Flannery O'Connor, letter in Habit of Being (1980), 347
      The 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 Radio
      I 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. 106
        We often say, that every man has a pope in his belly.
      • 1893 January 19, Nation (N.Y.), 46/3
        Burne-Jones... accepted him [sc. Rossetti] as the infallible Pope of Art.
      • 1972 June 2, Science, 966/2
        Both [discoveries] were rejected offhand by the popes of the field.
    2. (by extension) Any similar head of a religion.
      • c. 1400, John Mandeville, Travels (Titus C.xvi, 1919), 205
        In 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, b7
        Although Islam has no formal hierarchy of clergy, Tantawy [sc. 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, 27
        [The Gazet] of England came full charged with the News of Burning the Pope in Effigie at London.
      • 1713, J. Arbuthnot, Invitation to Peace, 7
        It 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.
  2. (Coptic Church) An honorary title of the Coptic bishop of Alexandria as father and head of his church.
  3. (Eastern Orthodoxy) An honorary title of the Orthodox bishop of Alexandria as father and head of his autocephalous church.
  4. (Christianity, historical, obsolete) Any bishop of the early Christian church.
    • 1563, 2nd Tome Homelyes, sig. Hh.i
      All notable Bishops were then called popes.
    • 1703, translating U. Chevreau as Hist. World, III. v. 379
      All Bishops in that time had the Stile of Pope given them, as now we call every one of them, My Lord.
  5. (UK) The ruffe, a small Eurasian freshwater fish (Gymnocephalus cernua); others of its genus.
    • 1653, I. Walton, Compl. Angler, Table sig. A8v
      Directions how and with what baits to fish for the Ruffe or Pope.
    • 1905 March, Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, 220/2
      There is an insignificant little fish... known in Britain as the pope or ruffe.
  6. (UK regional, obsolete) The grain weevil (Sitophilus granarius).
    • 1658, J. Rowland translating T. Moffet as Theater of Insects in Topsell's Hist. Four-footed Beasts, 1086
      The English call the Wheat-worm Kis, Pope, Bowde, Weevil and Wibil.
    • 1743, W. Ellis, Suppl. to London & Country Brewer 2nd ed., 259
      At Winchester they call this Insect [sc. the weevil], Pope, Black-bob, or Creeper.
    • 1847, J. O. Halliwell, Dictionary of Archaic & Provincial Words, II. 637/2
      Popes, weevils. Urry gives this as a Hampshire word, in his MS. adds. to Ray.
  7. (UK regional) The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica).
  8. (US regional) The painted bunting (Passerina ciris).
    • 1763, translating A. Le Page du Pratz's Hist. Louisiana, II. 93
      The Pope [Fr. le Pape] is a bird that has a red and black plumage.
    • 1945 February, American Speech, 49
      The English-speaking people of New Orleans call the bird [sc. the painted bunting] ‘pop’.
  9. (UK regional) The bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula).
    • 1864, N. & Q. 3rd series, 5 124/2
      Pope, Nope, Alp, Red-Hoop, and Tony-Hoop, are all provincial appellations of... the common Bullfinch.
    • 1885, C. Swainson, Provincial Names for British Birds, 66
      Bullfinch... 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), 26
      Bullfinches are known as hoops in the Westcountry, from their calls, and as mawps and popes.
  10. (UK regional, obsolete) The red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio).
    • 1885, C. Swainson, Provincial Names of British Birds, 47
      Red-backed shrike... Pope (Hants).
Usage notes[edit]

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[edit]
Derived terms[edit]


pope (third-person singular simple present popes, present participle poping, simple past and past participle poped)

  1. (intransitive or with 'it') To act as or like a pope.
    • 1537, T. Cromwell in R. B. Merriman, Life & Lett. Cromwell (1902), II. 89
      Paul popith Jolyly, that woll desire the worlde to pray for the kinges apeyrement.
    • 1624, R. Montagu, Gagg for New Gospell? xiii. 95
      Vrban the eight, that now Popeth it.
    • 1966 February, Duckett's Reg., 14/2
      He would pope it in his own way, God guiding him.
    • 1989 September 24, Los Angeles Times, iii. 22/1
      I 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.
    • c. 1916, in Evelyn Waugh's Life R. Knox (1959), ii. i. 142
      I'm not going to ‘Pope’ until after the war (if I'm alive).
    • 1990 October 7, Sunday Telegraph, 26/5
      A 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.

Etymology 2[edit]

By analogy with bishop (mulled and spiced wine).


pope (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, 1157/1
      When 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, 264
      Pope, a spiced drink made from tokay..., ginger, honey and roasted orange.
    • 1976 January 15, Times (London), 12/8
      Many of these hot drinks have clerical names—Bishop being a type of mulled port, Cardinal using claret, and Pope Champagne.

Etymology 3[edit]

From Russian поп (pop), from Old Church Slavonic попъ (pop'), from Byzantine Greek as above.


pope (plural popes)

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

Etymology 4[edit]



pope (plural popes)

  1. (US dialectical, obsolete) The whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vociferus).
    • 1781, S. Peters, Gen. Hist. Connecticut, 257
      The 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, rare) The nighthawk (Chordeiles minor).
    • 1956, Massachusetts Audubon Soc. Bull., 40 81
      Common Nighthawk... Pope (Conn[ecticut]. From the sound made by its wings while dropping through the air).





  1. feminine form of pop



pope m (plural popes)

  1. (Russian Orthodoxy) pope (Russian Orthodox priest)