The larynx

The larynx is in the neck, above the windpipe (trachea). It is also called the voicebox.

What is the larynx?

The larynx is also called the voicebox. It is in the neck, above the windpipe (trachea) and in front of the gullet (oesophagus).

The windpipe is the tube that carries air to and from the lungs. The gullet is the tube that food goes down when you eat.

The larynx is tube-shaped, and it is about 5cm or 2in long.

Parts of the larynx
Image: Parts of the larynx

How does the larynx work?

The larynx allows the air you breathe to reach your lungs. It has a flap of skin at the top, called the epiglottis. When you swallow, the epiglottis sends food and liquid down the gullet, stopping it from going into the windpipe.

The larynx contains the 2 vocal cords. The vocal cords vibrate together when air passes between them. This makes the sound of your voice.

The larynx is the lump you can see or feel at the front of the neck. This is known as the Adam’s apple.

The larynx has 3 main parts:

  • supraglottis – which is the area above the vocal cords
  • glottis – which is the middle area where the vocal cords are
  • subglottis – which is the area below the vocal cords that connects to the windpipe.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our laryngeal cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    ESMO Annals of Oncology. Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, larynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx. EHNS-ESMO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up. 2020. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

    NICE Guideline NG36. Cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract: assessment and management in people aged 16 and over. 2018. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

    NICE Technology Appraisal TA736. Nivolumab for treating recurrent of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck after platinum-based chemotherapy. 2021. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Claire Paterson, Consultant Clinical Oncologist. 

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 June 2022
Next review: 01 June 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.