omphalos

noun
om·​pha·​los | \ ˈäm(p)-fə-ˌläs How to pronounce omphalos (audio) , -ləs \

Definition of omphalos

: a central point : hub, focal point

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Omphalos originated as an ancient Greek word meaning "navel" and is distantly related to two other words of the same meaning, Latin umbilicus and Old English "nafela." (The latter of these is the source of our word navel.) The ancient Greeks also used "omphalos" to refer to a sacred, rounded stone in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi that was supposed to mark the center of the earth. In the 19th century, English speakers borrowed "omphalos" for this sense and its more general "center of activity" sense, as well as to refer to raised ornamentation on a shield or in the base of a cup or dish. In the 1920s, "omphalos" made another contribution to English via the word omphaloskepsis, which means "contemplation of one's navel."

Examples of omphalos in a Sentence

during the Vietnam War the university's campus effectively became the area's omphalos for antiwar activity
Recent Examples on the Web In front of me was a black ovoid stone, known as the omphalos, set on the spot in Greek mythology where two eagles loosed by Zeus crossed paths at the earth’s nexus. Liz Alderman, New York Times, 9 July 2019 While the temples have crumbled, seeing the omphalos gave me goose bumps, and left me awe-struck over Delphi’s sublime place in history. Liz Alderman, New York Times, 9 July 2019 Zeus marked the spot with a stone called the omphalos (navel), to signify the location’s centrality. National Geographic, 12 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'omphalos.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of omphalos

1845, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for omphalos

Greek, navel — more at navel

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The first known use of omphalos was in 1845

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Cite this Entry

“Omphalos.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/omphalos. Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for omphalos

omphalos

noun
om·​pha·​los | \ ˈäm(p)-fə-ˌläs, -ləs How to pronounce omphalos (audio) \
plural omphali\ -​ˌlī How to pronounce omphalos (audio) , -​ˌlē How to pronounce omphalos (audio) \

Medical Definition of omphalos

: navel

More from Merriam-Webster on omphalos

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about omphalos

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