What Is an Adam’s Apple?

An Adam’s apple is a visible bump at the front of a person's throat that is caused by the larynx, or voice box, pushing the skin outward. It's a secondary sex characteristic of males. Although an Adam’s apple is more common in men—and generally associated with masculine identity—the bump can be visible in a person of any gender or sex.

The term Adam’s apple is rooted in the Bible and Judeo-Christian history. According to a Bible story, Adam, the first man, ate the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden. When he did so, the apple became stuck in his throat. Today, the term Adam's apple is a nod to this story, although some say that the term could be from a mistranslation of Hebrew text that talked about the larynx.

Doctor examining a man's neck

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What Is an Adam’s Apple?

As children, most people do not have a noticeable Adam's apple, but during puberty, the larynx grows. This causes changes in the voice that both men and women experience. Although the growth happens in both sexes, it is more significant in biological men, which is why men are more likely than women to have a visible Adam's apple.

The larynx is made up of nine different areas of cartilage. The largest of these is called the thyroid cartilage. As the larynx grows during puberty, the thyroid cartilage needs space to expand, so it pushes forward. That's what gives the visible bump on the throats of many men.

What Is the Purpose of an Adam's Apple?

The Adam's apple bump itself has no purpose. But the larynx, which causes the Adam's apple, is an important organ that helps people breathe, swallow, and speak. The larynx is so critical for speech that it is informally known as the voice box. Within the larynx are two sets of vocal cords, which are bands of muscle that allow humans to produce sound. When you're quiet, the vocal cords are open, allowing air to pass through your throat without making noise. When you want to make a sound, the vocal cords close, forcing air to pass over them, creating vibrations and therefore sounds.

The larynx is important for more than just speech, however. It's critical in helping you swallow effectively, keeping food from entering your lungs. When you swallow, the muscles in the larynx help close the epiglottis, a flap of cartilage that keeps food from entering your lungs. This prevents aspiration, a condition where food or liquid enters your lungs, which can cause pneumonia and other complications.

Do Women Have Adam's Apples?

Both men and women have a larynx, but women are less likely to have a noticeable bump in their throat, known as an Adam's apple. In fact, having an Adam's apple is so closely associated with the male sex that it's considered a secondary sex characteristic, just like having facial hair or having a deep voice. However, some women also have a visible Adam's apple. 

Why Do Adam's Apples Vary in Size?

There are reasons for the biological difference between males and females in the likelihood of having a visible Adam's apple. The growth of the larynx is caused by testosterone, a male sex hormone. That's why men typically have a larger larynx and also a deeper voice than women. The larger the larynx, the more likely a person is to have a visible Adam's apple.

The position of the larynx within the throat also causes it to protrude outward more in males, giving men a visible Adam's apple. In women, the thyroid cartilage sits at a 120-degree angle, keeping it closer to the throat than the thyroid cartilage of men, which sits at a 90-degree angle. Of course, just as with any physical feature, there are individual variations in the size of the larynx, which can lead to different sized Adam's apples.

Can You Surgically Reduce the Size of Your Adam’s Apple?

The Adam’s apple is considered a secondary sex characteristic of males—a physical marker of their biological sex. Because of that, some transgender or female individuals who have a prominent Adam’s apple opt to undergo surgery that can reduce the size and appearance of the Adam’s apple.  

This surgery is known as a chondrolaryngoplasty, also known as a tracheal shave. It’s most common among trans women, who were assigned male at birth but identify as female. The cosmetic surgery is considered safe and important for the quality of life. It’s often performed alongside a procedure known that can help give a higher-pitched, more feminine voice. This is considered a type of sex reassignment surgery, also known as gender confirmation surgery.

A Word From Verywell

Although Adam’s apples are more common in men, they can appear in people of any gender. The varying prominence of Adam’s apples are part of the normal variation of human bodies. However, if the appearance of your Adam’s apple is impacting your quality of life, there are safe surgical procedures that you can discuss with your healthcare provider that could help reduce the appearance of your Adam's apple.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Fitzpatrick, Thomas H. and Marco A. Siccardi. Anatomy, head and neck, Adam's apple.

  2. John Hopkins Medicine. Swallowing exercises: closing of the larynx exercises.

  3. KidsHealth. What’s an Adam’s apple? Nemours. 

  4. Sturm A, Chaiet SR. Chondrolaryngoplasty—thyroid cartilage reductionFacial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America. 2019;27(2):267-272. doi:10.1016/j.fsc.2019.01.005

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.