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What is an Adam's Apple?

The pronounced area of a man's throat is referred to as the Adam's apple.
The Adam's apple is composed of cartilage that surrounds the larynx.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Tony Alter, Alila Medical Media
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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An Adam's apple is an anatomical structure which appears primarily in males. Because it develops during puberty, biologists classify it as a secondary sexual characteristic. The size of an Adam's apple can vary widely; some are extremely prominent, while others are less pronounced, and they even appear enlarged on some women as well as men. The primary purpose of the structure is to protect the delicate voicebox from injuries.

The official name for the Adam's apple is the prominentia laryngea. It is composed of cartilage which surrounds the larynx. As the larynx grows during puberty, the cartilage enlarges to accommodate it, creating a bump. Over time, an Adam's apple will grow quite solid; young people have soft, flexible cartilage, while older people have more bony protrusions. In some cases, people find an Adam's apple aesthetically undesirable, and they undergo a surgery known as a trachea shave, in which the Adam's apple is greatly reduced in size.

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There are two conflicting explanations for the origin of the common name for the thyroid cartilage in men. Some people say that it is a reference to the fact that it looks like of like a chunk of apple stuck in the throat, so the name is linked with Adam's consumption of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Others say that it is a result of mistranslation from the Hebrew tappuach ha adam, which just means “male bump.” The second explanation is probably more likely; many such malapropisms from Greek, Hebrew, and Latin can be found in modern English.

As people with Adam's apples know, the growth of this structure is associated with a change in voice. As men mature, their voices deepen and sometimes become more rough as well. The period in which the Adam's apple develops is often marked by wild fluctuations in the male voice, as the vocal cords settle into their new size. Men with especially large protrusions can also see and feel the movement of the cartilage as they swallow and speak.

Technically, everyone has a prominentia laryngea, even if it's not visible. You can feel this cartilage in your throat by finding your voicebox; start by humming and feeling your throat to feel the source of the vibration. When you find the larynx, you have also found your thyroid cartilage, since it encircles your voicebox. If you are younger, this anatomical structure probably feels soft and almost spongy, and you may be able to change the pitch and timber of your voice by gently manipulating your thyroid cartilage.

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Discuss this Article

anon313880
Post 28

Does the development of an adam's apple stop the growth of height?

anon240429
Post 27

It's possible to have a large larynx and still have thin, tight vocal cords and a high-pitched (but loud and resonant) voice, but in general the size of the adam's apple will be proportional to the depth of the voice.

anon172136
Post 25

The more likely subject to be called Adam's apple is the prostate - it's only present in males, it grows during the lifetime of a male until it is the size of a large apple and then it starts rotting with cancer in half of males age 50 and practically every male over 80.

anon141238
Post 24

I have searched for goiter and enlarged thyroid glands-they appear well below the apple, but I have an enlargement around my apple, and toward the chin (it looks more like a double chin but I am low weight). Is the Adam's Apple susceptible to infection that could cause such symptom? It is tender-slight pain, but I find no reference to such a condition anywhere!

anon132594
Post 23

thank you so much for this article. i am a teenage girl and i thought that i was maybe a guy when i found a lump, where about the Adams apple, because mine is on the skin where the head sticks out. is that odd? thank you again.

anon118107
Post 22

Did you not just read the article? we all have one. you wouldn't be able to speak properly without your adam's apple.

anon71511
Post 19

yeah, i am a woman and i have an adams apple really visible. it bothers me sometimes because some stare at it as if there's something wrong with me. thanks for this article.

anon71376
Post 18

In Hebrew "adham" or "ad ham" also means "from the earth."

anon67365
Post 17

Does an Adam's apple change back and forth in size?

anon54294
Post 16

yes it says every person has one and they are made out of. cartilage. Was it really that hard to read?

anon53214
Post 15

what actualy is an adams apple? is it a muscle, a bone or something else. can someone please answer me.

anon48089
Post 14

do women have adams apples?

anon46632
Post 13

"Tappuach Ha Adam"....does not translate to "male bump". It translates to "The Apple of Adam" or "Adam's Apple". Check your sources.

Moderator's reply: The translation in the article is correct. In Hebrew, the parts of the phrase "Tappuach Ha Adam" can have several meanings. "Tappuach" means "bodily projection," although it has also been translated as "apple." "Adam" or "adham" means "man."

anon23788
Post 11

To Anon16295, women DO have an Adam's apple, actually, it is just smaller to accommodate their voices.

anon20563
Post 9

Can adam's apples be removed like males having sex changes?

anon16953
Post 6

Why do the boys have an adam's apple?

anon16295
Post 5

Why don't girls or women have adams apples?

anon14814
Post 4

are girls supposed to have adam's apples?

anon11038
Post 2

Is the size of the adam's apple related to the pitch of the voice, ie., do males with large adams apples have lower voices?

anon9508
Post 1

is the throat, or adams apple, supposed to hurt when it is developing?

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