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
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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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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Example sentences
The forum will be held in the nave and will cover both the architectural and
  historical significance of the cathedral.
You'll see the whole story painted on the ceiling of the main nave.
For now, the crossing and the chapels around the apse are open, reached through
  a shed that runs through the nave.
The gunboat would nave shelled the guerrillas, but that they protected
  themselves with the prisoners they had captured.
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