(φιλτρον), from philein
(φιλειν), "to love; to kiss"), also known as the infranasal depression
, or Bruce's Fossa
is the vertical groove
in the upper lip
, formed where the nasomedial
processes meet during embryonic
The philtrum allows humans to express a much larger range of lip motions than would otherwise be possible, which enhances vocal and nonverbal communication.
When these processes fail to fuse fully, a cleft lip
(sometimes called a "hare lip", or "meermeer") can result.
A flattened or smooth philtrum can be a symptom of Fetal alcohol syndrome.
The ancient Greeks
used to believe that the philtrum was one of the most erogenous
spots on the human body, hence the etymology
According to the Jewish Talmud
30b), God sends an angel
to each womb and teaches a baby all the wisdom
that can be obtained. Just before the unborn baby comes out, the angel touches it between the upper lip and the nose and all that it has taught the baby is forgotten.
Commentaries on this particular story can be found in "What the Angel Taught you" by Rabbi Noah Weinberg and Yaakov Salomon (ISBN 1-57819-134-3).
Similarly, in other folksayings, it is said that an angel "shushes" the baby in the womb, to stop it from talking about heaven, or to forget. Other stories say that it is an indent left by the finger of God. Still more say that it is the spot where the angel put his finger to "shush" the child after having told it a secret. (This was memorably referenced in the film The Prophecy by the arch-angel Gabriel (Christopher Walken).)