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From Middle English wombe, wambe, from Old English womb, wamb (belly, stomach; bowels; heart; womb; hollow), from Proto-Germanic *wambō (belly, stomach, abdomen)[1], from Proto-Indo-European *wamp- (membrane (of bowels), intestines, womb). Cognate with Scots wam, wame (womb), Dutch wam (dewlap of beef; belly of a fish), German Wamme, Wampe (paunch, belly), Danish vom (belly, paunch, rumen), Swedish våmb (belly, stomach, rumen), Norwegian vomb (belly), Icelandic vömb (belly, abdomen, stomach), Old Welsh gumbelauc (womb), Breton gwamm (woman, wife), Sanskrit वपा (vapā́, the skin or membrane lining the intestines or parts of the viscera, the caul or omentum). Superseded non-native Middle English mater, matere (womb) and matris, matrice (womb) borrowed from Latin māter (womb) and Old French matrice (womb), respectively.


  • IPA(key): /wuːm/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uːm


womb (plural wombs)

  1. (anatomy) In female mammals, the organ in which the young are conceived and grow until birth; the uterus. [from 8thc.]
  2. (obsolete) The abdomen or stomach. [8th-17thc.]
    • a. 1472, Thomas Malory, “(please specify the chapter)”, in [Le Morte Darthur], book V, [London: [] by William Caxton], published 31 July 1485, OCLC 71490786; republished as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, Le Morte Darthur [], London: Published by David Nutt, [], 1889, OCLC 890162034:
      And his hede, hym semed,was enamyled with asure, and his shuldyrs shone as the golde, and his wombe was lyke mayles of a merveylous hew [].
  3. (obsolete) The stomach of a person or creature. [8th-18thc.]
  4. (figuratively) A place where something is made or formed. [from 15thc.]
    • (Can we date this quote by Dryden and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      The womb of earth the genial seed receives.
    • 1826, Mary Shelley, The Last Man, part 2, chapter 7
      The shadows of the future hours rose dark and menacing from the womb of time [...]
  5. Any cavity containing and enveloping anything.
    • (Can we date this quote by Robert Browning and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      The centre spike of gold / Which burns deep in the bluebell's womb.


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womb (third-person singular simple present wombs, present participle wombing, simple past and past participle wombed)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To enclose in a womb, or as if in a womb; to breed or hold in secret.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)


  1. ^ womb” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020.

Further readingEdit

  • womb” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020.

Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of wombe