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What Is a Cleft Chin?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A cleft chin is also called a dimple in the chin, a chin cleft or even less elegantly termed a butt chin. It is a small to large indentation in the chin that is actually genetically determined and is caused by failure of the lower jawbone to completely fuse together at the center point. This doesn’t cause problems for most people with a cleft chin; it merely causes variance in appearance. You’ll often see that parents with cleft chins tend to produce children with the same marking. Cleft-chinned parents may or may not pass along the trait to their children, and some children will be born with cleft chins to parents without the trait.

The cleft chin is an interesting study and example of how genetics can work, and how inherited genes sometimes fail in expression. Theoretically, parents who both have cleft chins would immediately pass this on to children, since it is a dominant trait. There are two reasons why this might not occur, because genes dictating the cleft can be affected by variable penetrance. Variable penetrance means that even a dominant trait may not be expressed. This may be caused by the environment — something in the fetal environment caused the jawbone to fuse completely. It also may be caused by something called modifier genes, which affect the function of the genes responsible for the cleft chin.

If the modifier genes suppress the gene controlling incomplete fusion of the jawbone, then the cleft would not be expressed. Alternately, two parents without cleft chins may both have had modifier genes, resulting in jawbone fusion. Their children might lack these modifiers and all have clefts despite that fact. The point is, whether or not parents have clefts, children may or may not have them. Variable penetrance can cause a little confusion, but explains why the cleft isn’t always inherited, or may appear among children whose parents don’t have clefts, though this is rare.

Cleft chins have certainly existed for a very long time. Homo sapiens fossilized remains discovered in France in the caves of Isturitz are carbon-dated back tens of thousands of years and show prominent clefts. The cleft chin also predominates in literature.

Villains often have deep clefts, and so do heroes. We also love our current and past actors with cleft chins, such as Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, John Travolta, Jude Law, and Sir Ian McKellen. It should be noted that many of these actors have played both villains and heroes, and the cleft chin seems to be one of those adaptable facial traits that can lend itself to dramatic expression in different ways.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon337981 — On Jun 09, 2013

I love my cleft chin and am proud of it because it comes from my Dad. It's origin comes from west slavic areas. It's mostly genetics. I don't understand why people are self conscious about it. There are tons of attractive people in Hollywood with cleft chins. It has no affect on speech as well. Unless your whole chin is a cleft.

By anon335672 — On May 22, 2013

@anon268039, Post 30: That is not true. Neither my son's father nor I have a cleft chin, but he has a very noticeable one. Also, they don't run in either of our families. He was not the product of cheating and that was proven with a DNA test. People like you spreading that kind of crap around caused me to have to get one.

By anon326946 — On Mar 25, 2013

I have a dimpled chin that I inherited from my dad. I was made fun of growing up, not by classmates, but by my two siblings who don't have it. Because of that, I had self esteem issues, but my current boyfriend loves it. I've even had random people come up to me and tell me how much they like it since I moved to a larger city three years ago.

Also, to answer post no. 2's question (not like you'd actually ever see it.

I learned to talk (fully) when I was two. So, based on experience, I don't think his cleft has anything to do with his speech.

And to post no. 10 (again, not like you'd see it, but it's mostly for other people who have the same questions):

Unless you have a very shallow cleft, and gain a lot of weight to squeeze your face and make it more prominent, chances are you would have had a cleft since you were developing in your mother's womb.

By anon325727 — On Mar 18, 2013

In our family i am the only one who has a cleft chin. I do not have any idea of how it happened. I have noticed this cleft chin lately. I feel so happy.

By anon301025 — On Nov 01, 2012

Is there a reverse of a cleft chin, causing the jaw bone to fuse even more completely leaving a centered ridge? Wish I worded it better.

By anon277389 — On Jun 29, 2012

Well, I have one. Female here. I was told early on that that is the angel's mark! If they liked you at birth, they kissed you on your chin! I'll stick with that, and my cleft!

By anon275236 — On Jun 17, 2012

I have a cleft chin and I think it makes me attractive.

By anon268039 — On May 12, 2012

If one of your parents has a cleft chin you should have one too, those of you who have clefts and a mother and father who don't, you're either adopted or your mother was unfaithful. Good luck getting her to admit to it, though.

Same goes for those without clefts and a parent with one. They reckon 20 percent of fathers are raising at least one child who is not theirs unknowingly. Think about this genetic fact before selecting someone to have an affair with, woman.

By anon259475 — On Apr 06, 2012

Cleft chins do run in family genes, whether you think so or not. If neither parent has one, somewhere through the bloodline, someone did.

Our great grand-papa had one, our father had one and our four siblings have one, now it's passed on to a few of the grandchildren, whose parents did not have one, and parents who did have one had, one with them too. It's a way to determine if you're related in our family.

By anon216592 — On Sep 22, 2011

Quote 'theoretically, parents who both have cleft chins would immediately pass this on to children, since it is a dominant trait.' Is it not possible to have a cleft chin with just one of the gene pairs being the dominant one? If both parents are like this then there is a 1 in 4 chance that they will have a child without the trait.

By anon189706 — On Jun 23, 2011

I have very deep cleft chin. For your information, I'm from an Indonesian tribe, in which a cleft chin is seen rarely.

My dad always said that genes came from his grandfather, who came from south asia. well, my grand-grandfather is indian. Then, i saw my indian friends on Facebook, a lot of them also have cleft chins.

Now, my friends are always calling my cleft chin an Indian chin. Sounds funny doesn't it?

By anon157560 — On Mar 03, 2011

My father's mother had a cleft chin. She had seven siblings, five boys, two girls. All the boys (my uncles) have cleft chins, the women don't.

Of my uncle's siblings, only the boys inherited the trait, including me. Of my aunts, no one inherited the trait, boys or girls.

I love it. I have gotten so many compliments and since my chin is strong makes me look - I like to think - strong and distinguished.

By anon145404 — On Jan 23, 2011

I love the cleft on my fiance's chin. It makes him more attractive and above all it suits him and adds sex appeal.

By anon135459 — On Dec 18, 2010

Don't be uncomfortable about it! I dated a man for a long time who loved it so much that to this day he is drawn to women who have a cleft chin. Lots of good looking people have them, Jessica Simpson is a great example!

By anon118445 — On Oct 14, 2010

I have a cleft chin, and so does my half brother. What's weird, is that his father nor my father have a cleft, and our mother does not have one. Neither do our grandparents have clefts. But, my dad's brother has a cleft, though he is my uncle, and not the uncle of my brother, so apparently this gene is one my mom and dad's side, but only my brother, my uncle, and I have it.

By anon117488 — On Oct 10, 2010

If you don't like your cleft chin, embrace it like I have. If you get teased for having it and don't like it. then these people are not your true friends. About 75 percent of the time, they are egocentric jerks who gain ego to themselves by making fun of others.

Embrace yourself and tell people it is one of the sexiest things that can be on a man (or women) and that they are just jealous! I tell that to everyone. If they take offense they are not a true friend. If they laugh or shrug it off or go with what you said, they are a true friend.

Everyone tells me I look amazing with a cleft chin, and less than 1 percent of the population has it so it makes me even more unique.

I am the proud owner of a cleft chin since before birth!

By anon105419 — On Aug 20, 2010

I have a cleft chin and hate it. I have been made fun of because of it all my life.

By anon97491 — On Jul 19, 2010

Cleft chins seem to run in my family, but the actual curve (how prominent the cleft in) seems to have gotten deeper with each generation, resulting in my chin's cleft being very obvious. why is this?

By anon91958 — On Jun 24, 2010

i don't have one and I'm glad of it, but for some women or men, it suits them perfectly.

By anon88182 — On Jun 03, 2010

Cleft chins run in my family. My father, cousins both male and female have one. I never thought much about it, however, most of my grown life, I've gotten so many compliments on it, that it's so sexy and have been hit on (men go crazy for it) that I'm glad I have it.

By anon87573 — On May 31, 2010

I find boys with cleft chins attractive. they are unique too.

By anon85731 — On May 21, 2010

My son is the only of my three children to have a cleft chin. It gives him a special look. He is truly blessed to have it. Now if his idiot father would realize just because he nor I have one that our son could still have one. His father is the butt chin.

By anon85512 — On May 20, 2010

I've had a cleft chin since I was born, and my father does too. But neither my brother or sister have one.

By anon77115 — On Apr 13, 2010

Our son has a cleft chin. Neither my husband or I have a cleft chin, or our parents, or our grandparents. The only relative I have with one is my cousin (my Mum's brother's daughter). Very strange? He looks so handsome with it though so I'm not complaining!

By anon71273 — On Mar 17, 2010

I always wondered if you get it when you were born or if you get it when you are older. When is the cleft chin noticeable? I don't know if I have one yet.

By anon64239 — On Feb 06, 2010

I always wondered about my chin since no one in my family has it! Perhaps someone far more in the past had it in the line. Unlike most people, my chin is very deep and butt like.

By anon52592 — On Nov 15, 2009

My 15-year-old son just made me aware that he has a cleft chin. You can't tell by just looking at him. He started feeling everyone in our family's chins, including his two siblings, and realized his is different. Nobody has it but him. However, my father, his maternal grandfather, had a cleft chin.

By anon44130 — On Sep 04, 2009

My husband has a very prominent cleft chin and passed this trait on to all three of my children. My oldest daughter has the smallest cleft in her chin, but was born with a severe cleft lip and palate. My son's cleft in his chin was a little more prominent, but my youngest daughter's cleft in her chin was obvious even when she was a newborn.

I'm glad that all three of my kids inherited this trait, since it's one that my husband is well-known for! I always tell him that he has John Travolta's chin.

By anon29541 — On Apr 03, 2009

I found this interesting because the one thing that people have used to tell my twin sister and I apart since we were babies is my cleft chin. I inherited it from my father, but my sister did not, even though we are almost certainly identical.

By anon22816 — On Dec 10, 2008

My son is a late talker, Is it possible that a child speech could be affected by the jaw bone not being fused completely?

By mrtwain — On Dec 09, 2008

My wife and I have been married a long time and have three boys, all grown up now, one of which has a cleft chin and the other two do not. Neither my wife nor myself have cleft chin and as far as we know none of hers nor my siblings have a cleft chin.

Is this possible and if so what are the chances of this happening?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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