Word Origin & History
O.E. nafela, from P.Gmc. *nabalan (cf. O.N. nafli, O.Fris. navla, M.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; O.Prus. nabis "navel;" Gk. omphalos; O.Ir. imbliu). Cf. also
L. umbilicus "navel," source of Sp. ombligo and O.Fr. lombril, lit. "the navel," from l'ombril, which by dissimilation became modern Fr. nombril (12c.). "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. Even 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 Eng. from 1382. To contemplate (one's) navel "meditate" is from 1933; hence navel-gazer (1952). Navel orange attested from 1888.