Nomenclature and Synonyms of the Umbilicus

  • Mohamed Fahmy


A stark contrast exists between the physiologic importance of the umbilicus during development and after birth. During development, the umbilical cord functions as a channel allowing blood flow between the placenta and fetus; it also serves an important role in the development of the intestine and the urinary system. After birth, once the umbilical cord falls off, no evidence of these connections should be present, except the umbilical scar, as landmark of the previously exist cord. Nevertheless, umbilical disorders are frequently encountered in paediatric surgery. It has been estimated that 30% of births have some type of umbilical cord finding. These disorders range from the very common umbilical hernia to infections such as omphalitis, which can be life-threatening, and from simple straightforward anatomy like granuloma to complicated and sophisticated malformations, like vitellointestinal and urachal anomalies. Most patients with umbilical problems present with a mass or drainage from the umbilicus. An understanding of the anatomy and embryology of the abdominal wall and umbilicus is important to identify and properly treat common as well as rare umbilical conditions.

In 1916, W. B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia and London, published the first book concerned with umbilical embryology, anatomy and disorders, which was written by the Johns Hopkins University gynaecologist Thomas Stephen Cullen; since then umbilical disorders attract many scientists to publish countless case reports, case series and few original researches.

Nomenclature: Umbilicus, belly button, navel, omphalos, outie, innie, centrepiece of the human body, and sole button

Umbilical cord known as: Lifeline, thread of life, funis and funiculus, which is derived from the Latin word used for rope or cord

Umbilicus is the common scientific and medical name, but in the common language, it is called belly button; it represents the rounded, knotty depression in the centre of the abdomen caused by the detachment of the umbilical cord.

Navel: The term omphalos in Greek or umbilicus in Latin means a ‘navel’ which is a conical stone that was deemed in antiquity to have marked a ‘Centre of the Earth’.

Omphalos: This is the scientific and medical term used to represent the umbilicus; the origin of this name will be explained later.

Outie and innie: In humans, the umbilical scar can appear as a depression (often referred to as an innie) or as a protrusion (outie), although umbilicus could be classified into these two categories.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohamed Fahmy
    • 1
  1. 1.Pediatric SurgeryAl Azher University Pediatric SurgeryCairoEgypt

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