What is an Adam's Apple?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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 pronounced area of a man's throat is referred to as the Adam's apple.
The pronounced area of a man's throat is referred to as the Adam's apple.

The official name for the structure 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 it aesthetically undesirable, and they undergo a surgery known as a trachea shave, in which the structure is greatly reduced in size.

The Adam's apple is composed of cartilage that surrounds the larynx.
The Adam's apple is composed of cartilage that surrounds the larynx.

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.

During a trachea shave, the surgeon makes a small slit in the throat and removes cartilage.
During a trachea shave, the surgeon makes a small slit in the throat and removes cartilage.

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.

The Adam's apple typically becomes prominent in males during puberty.
The Adam's apple typically becomes prominent in males during puberty.

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.

The Adam's apple helps protect the voicebox from injuries.
The Adam's apple helps protect the voicebox from injuries.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Both males and females have an Adam's apple. Generally, during puberty, a male's "Adam's apple" will enlarge and become more visible. Females generally have smaller or much less noticeable Adams's apples. But, just the same, and for whatever reason (it doesn't have to have anything to with any type of serious medical issue) some females not only will have a noticeable Adam's apple, but can have a rather prominent one. A female with a large Adam's apple does not mean she was once or is now, a male in any way. (Although, that can be true sometimes, in this day and age.) But, most are not.

Unfortunately, because a large Adam's apple is so associated with being a male secondary sex characteristic, many women with a prominent "Eve's apple" (If you will.) they may often feel self conscious, uncomfortable and less feminine.

I would suggest for reassurance, that women with this problem refer to "known credible medical sources" to understand more about this issue. It is a myth that any woman with a noticeable or even a prominent Adam's apple must actually have once been a male, or is one. And one might be surprised that this myth is even more common among transgendered people sometimes.

In the end, all of this simply boils down to ignorance. Still this myth is so widely spread, that it is understandable, that a woman who does develop a noticeable or prominent Adam's apple, may suffer some from some degree of low self-esteem and self-consciousness. Still, there are those, who are bit less ignorant about such things and many women (if not most) with prominent Adam's apples will find a mate, and live a life as happy as anyone else. And if one looks around, there are, non-surgical cosmetics techniques to make the larger female Adam's apple less noticeable.


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


do women have adams apples?


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


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


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


Why do the boys have an adam's apple?


Why don't girls or women have adams apples?


are girls supposed to have adam's apples?


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?


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

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