What Is The Medical Term For “Belly Button”?

Getty

Some of us get squeamish at the sight of them. Some of us shoot studs into them. And, no two are exactly alike, even for identical twins. We’re here to talk about belly buttons, folks.

What actually is a belly button?

The belly button is an informal term for the
navel
. It refers to the scar on the abdomen that is caused when the umbilical cord—through which the mammalian fetus receives nourishment—is removed. The term belly button is considered an Americanism (meaning we Americans created it) dating back to 1875–80.

When the scar appears as a depression, it is referred to as an
innie
. When it appears as a protrusion, the opposite name applies:
outie
. Some who are unhappy with the appearance of their navel even opt for umbilicoplasty, or “(cosmetic) belly button surgery.”

What is the clinical name for the belly button?

Umbilicus is the clinical term for the belly button. This is a Latin word borrowed into English in the 1600s meaning “navel, middle, center.” The English word navel, believe or not, is related to umbilicus

Unlike other placental mammals, the human umbilicus is prominently seen. And, in humans, the navel is considered, roughly, the center of gravity (mass) of the body.

Belly buttons and mythology?

In ancient Greece, the 
omphalos
 (meaning and related to “navel”) was a sacred stone in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, thought to mark the center of the earth.

According to myth, the god Zeus had two eagles fly across the world to meet at its center, or omphalos. The mythologies of some other cultures feature the navel as a primary component in their creation myths.


Omphaloskepsis
(literally, looking at one’s navel in Greek) is “the contemplation of one’s navel as part of a mystical exercise.”

What does navel-gazing mean?

The term
navel-gazing
has quite a different connotation. A navel-gazer is “excessively self-absorbed.”

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.