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See more synonyms for nave on Thesaurus.com
  1. 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.
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Origin of nave

1665–75; < Medieval Latin nāvis, Latin: ship; so called from the resemblance in shape
Can be confusedknave naval nave (see synonym study at knave)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for nave

Historical Examples

  • On most Sundays doth he preach here in the nave to all sorts of folk.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • The nave of the church is Decorated, and has beautiful windows of that period.

  • The nave was slowly filled, the men being at the right and the women at the left.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • The nave, then as now, was the charge of the parish; the chancel, of the rector.

  • Saxon arches separating the nave from the aisles and chancel are plain.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

British Dictionary definitions for nave


  1. the central space in a church, extending from the narthex to the chancel and often flanked by aisles
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Word Origin

C17: via Medieval Latin from Latin nāvis ship, from the similarity of shape


  1. the central block or hub of a wheel
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Word Origin

Old English nafu, nafa; related to Old High German naba
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for nave


"main part of a church," 1670s, from Medieval Latin navem (nominative navis) "nave of a church," from Latin navis "ship" (see naval), on some fancied resemblance in shape.

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"hub of a wheel," Old English nafu, from Proto-Germanic *nabo- (cf. Old Saxon naba, Old Norse nöf, Middle Dutch nave, Dutch naaf, Old High German naba, German Nabe), perhaps connected with the root of navel on notion of centrality (cf. Latin umbilicus "navel," also "the end of a roller of a scroll," Greek omphalos "navel," also "the boss of a shield").

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper