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What Is An Adam's Apple?

Many of us have a lump in our throat, but what does an Adam's Apple actually do?

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Rachael Funnell

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Rachael Funnell

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

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what is an adam's apple
Presence of an Adam's Apple isn't necessarily dependent on a person's sex, as both men and women can have them. Image credit: BAZA Production / Shutterstock.com

Do you have an Adam’s Apple? It’s a lump that sits in the middle of the throat of many adult humans, prone to bouncing around when we laugh and swallow. But what is an Adam’s Apple? And what does it actually do?

Adam’s Apples are just one of many changes we see set in during puberty. Any person regardless of their sex and gender can have an Adam's Apple. While the change is typically bigger in cis men, making their Adam’s Apples more prominent, it’s perfectly possible for cis women to have one too.

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What is an Adam’s Apple?

An Adam’s Apple is visible growth that develops on the front of the neck. In doctor speak it’s known as the laryngeal prominence of the thyroid cartilage, the tough, flexible tissue that is our voice box. It’s one of several semi-rigid structures in the neck and is a section where two halves of cartilage meet in the middle of the neck.

Children don’t usually have a visible Adam’s Apple as it’s one of the developmental changes we typically see during puberty.

what is an adam's apple
The Adam's Apple is where two halves of thyroid cartilage meet in the middle. Image credit: Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body, Public Domain


What does an Adam’s Apple do?

As the Adam’s Apple becomes more prominent, it’s thought to play a role in the maturation of the voice, taking it down a few octaves from the higher pitch of childhood. This may be why people with large Adam’s Apples usually have a lower voice than people with small, or non-visible ones. However, only a few cadaver studies have looked into this, so the association hasn’t yet been definitively proven. 

Cartilage is a type of connective tissue so beyond creating a structure the Adam’s Apple doesn’t exactly do anything. It’s sort of like the house in which our voices live, so it’s important, but some people opt to have it shaved in a chondrolaryngoplasty. The procedure, also known as a tracheal shave, reduces the size of the Adam’s Apple without affecting its functionality.

Who develops an Adam’s Apple?

Thyroid cartilage changes shape in both sexes, but for males the change is usually bigger meaning that their Adam’s Apples tend to be more noticeable. However, everyone’s larynx grows during puberty, so Adam’s Apples are actually more common across both sexes than a lot of people assume.

Where does the name “Adam’s Apple” come from?

There are a few ideas as to where the name for the laryngeal prominence comes from, one being that it represents the forbidden fruit getting lodged in Adam’s throat. Another is that it’s a mistranslation of the Hebrew for “the swelling of a man”. 

If you’re not a fan of either, you can also call it a “goozle” which is apparently a thing in parts of the US and comes from “to guzzle”. Why let Adam have all the fun?


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  • puberty

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