navel (n.) O.E. nafela, nabula, from P.Gmc. *nabalan (Cf. O.N. nafli, Dan., Swed. navle, O.Fris. navla, M.Du., Du. navel, O.H.G. nabalo, Ger. Nabel), from PIE * (o)nobh- "navel" (Cf. Skt. nabhila "navel, nave, relationship;" Avestan nafa "navel," naba-nazdishta "next of kin;" Pers. naf; L. umbilicus "navel;" O.Prus. nabis "navel;" Gk. omphalos; O.Ir. imbliu). For Romanic words, see UMBILICUS (Cf. umbilicus).
"Navel" words from other roots include Lith. bamba, Skt. bimba- (also "disk, sphere"), Gk. bembix, lit. "whirlpool." O.C.S. papuku, Lith. pumpuras are originally "bud." Considered a feminine sexual center since ancient times, and still in parts of the Middle East, India, and Japan. In medieval Europe, it was averred that "[t]he seat of wantonness in women is the navel." [Cambridge bestiary, C.U.L. ii.4.26] Words for it in most languages have a secondary sense of "center." Meaning "center or hub of a country" is attested in English from late 14c. To contemplate (one's) navel "meditate" is from 1933; hence navel-gazer (1952); Cf. OMPHALOSKEPSIS (Cf. omphaloskepsis). Navel orange attested from 1888.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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