the principal longitudinal area of a church, extending from the main entrance or narthex to the chancel, usually flanked by aisles of less height and breadth: generally used only by the congregation.

1665–75; < Medieval Latin nāvis, Latin: ship; so called from the resemblance in shape

knave, naval, nave (see synonym study at knave). Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
nave1 (neɪv)
the central space in a church, extending from the narthex to the chancel and often flanked by aisles
[C17: via Medieval Latin from Latin nāvis ship, from the similarity of shape]

nave2 (neɪv)
the central block or hub of a wheel
[Old English nafu, nafa; related to Old High German naba]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

"main part of a church," 1673, from Sp. or It. nave, from M.L. navem (nom. navis) "nave of a church," from L. navis "ship" (see naval), on some fancied resemblance in shape.

"hub of a wheel," O.E. nafu, from P.Gmc. *nabo-, perhaps connected with the root of navel (q.v.) on notion of centrality (cf. L. umbilicus "navel," also "the end of a roller of a scroll," Gk. omphalos "navel," also "the boss of a shield").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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