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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Did You Know?

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

Zeus marked the spot with a stone called the omphalos (navel), to signify the location’s centrality. National Geographic, "Once sacred, the Oracle at Delphi was lost for a millennium. See how it was found.," 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.

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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Statistics for omphalos

Last Updated

19 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for omphalos

The first known use of omphalos was in 1845

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More Definitions for omphalos


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

Medical Definition of omphalos

: navel

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More from Merriam-Webster on omphalos

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with omphalos

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for omphalos Encyclopedia article about omphalos

Comments on omphalos

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to take the place or position of

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