Why the Adam’s Apple is Called the Adam’s Apple

Daven Hiskey 32
applesToday I found out why the Adam’s Apple is called the Adam’s Apple.

The origins of this term go all the way back to the Biblical event where Eve gave Adam a forbidden fruit, which is commonly misrepresented as an apple.  The term then basically comes from the legend that when he ate of the “apple”, the piece got stuck in his throat and made a lump.

Now, of course, according to the Bible story, it wasn’t an apple Adam and Eve ate of, it was a fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, of which there was apparently only one.  Besides the obvious fact that I don’t know anyone who’s felt particularly more knowledgeable in the ways of good and evil when they ate an apple, an apple tree is not self pollinating; so you’d need more than one to have it produce more of itself, which pretty firmly kills the whole “apple tree” theory.

To make the origins of the term even more ridiculous, even if it was an apple and it got stuck in his throat, his children wouldn’t somehow miraculously also have apples stuck in their throats.  This is about as absurd as the age old “Well if Adam had a rib taken out to make Eve, why aren’t men missing a rib?” Or the equally ludicrous corresponding claim by many that men are somehow missing a rib.  Both sides of the argument seem to have suspended all logic while arguing over this triviality.  The real irony here is the “rib” translation was actually a mistranslation.  For more on that, see the Bonus Factoids.

So this all begs the question, why do most people think the Bible says Adam and Eve ate an apple to get them tossed out of the Garden of Eden?  Why not an orange or a peach or why not just call it like it is stated in the Bible story?   Well, Aquila Ponticus, who was a second century translator translating the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, took the liberty of translating it as an apple tree, even though the original text doesn’t say that.  It’s likely that he chose this due to the fact that he was translating it into Greek for Greeks and that in Greek mythology apples were seen as symbols of desire and destruction.

Bonus Facts:

  • Why do men have “Adam’s Apples” and women don’t?  Well, in fact, some women do have a bump big enough in their throat to be noticeable and thus an “Adam’s Apple”.  It’s actually not that terribly uncommon if you were to look close enough to most women’s throats, though “man sized” Adam’s Apples are somewhat rare in women.  The “Adam’s Apple” is really just an enlarged larnyx which becomes big enough to be visible in your neck.  For those of you who don’t know, the larnyx’s primary purpose is as a voice box.  It also has an alternative purpose in aiding in the process of closing off the airways in your throat when you swallow.  This is why it generally seems to disappear when you swallow, as it is being pulled upward to aid in this process.  Around puberty, both men and women’s voice boxes get bigger.  This in turn makes their voices deeper, with men’s larynges growing more than women’s and thus making for a deeper voice, typically.
  • On that whole Adam’s “rib” story, despite tradition, it is also a mistranslation when it says Adam had a “rib” taken out to create Eve.  The original Hebrew word “צלע” (tsela) comes from the root word of “צלע” (tsala), which means “curve”.  So, in the Biblical story, it in essence says God took something from Adam’s “side” or “curve” to make Eve.  This is now generally translated as “side” from the “tsela” (which is how they got “rib” in the first place, even though “tsela” is used plenty of other places in the Bible and it never refers to a rib in those instances.  Indeed, the one place a rib is mentioned, it is using a completely different Hebrew word).  However, going with modern science, many religious scholars are now thinking the “curve” taken from Adam’s body to make Eve would more appropriately be translated as “DNA”, with “curve” obviously referring to the double helix in DNA.   Other religious scholars believe that this would be more appropriately translated as God dividing Adam completely in two to make Eve and then “closed up his flesh”; so basically God literally taking one side of Adam and making Eve.  This notion is supported by text from Hebrew priests more than 2000 years ago on this issue of what is meant by “side” in this story.  It is also important to note that these priests from 2000 years ago used the “side” meaning and not “rib”.  Either way, it has pretty firmly been established that the whole “rib” translation was a mistranslation.

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32 Comments »

  1. Bill H July 13, 2010 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    The bump is actually from the thyroid cartilage, not the larynx itself. The shape is different in men in part because of changes that occur during puberty, so it is related to the larynx in that way. Plus it sits right in front of the larynx. The part that sticks out is called the thyroid notch.

  2. Bing July 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    @Bill: The thyroid cartilage is the largest of the nine cartilages that make up the laryngeal skeleton. They all make up the cartilages of the larynx, which are usually generically just referred to as the larynx. While you are technically correct, for most non-technical explanations such as the above, people don’t usually go into the various parts of the larynx when referring to the Adam’s Apple because you’d have to talk about all the parts which add to the extra girth of the larynx. Most people just prefer to say “the larynx”, meaning all the parts that make up the larynx including the nine cartilages. Good to point out though! :-)

  3. Nelson July 16, 2010 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    And the “virgin” (as in Virgin Mary) is also a mistranslation – of the word “maiden.”

  4. halinka July 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    hm speaking of virgin mary… not only apples, but women aren’t self pollinating either
    :D

  5. ieerto July 25, 2010 at 5:49 am - Reply

    U could also have mentioned the similarity in Latin between apple (malus) and evil (malum).

    The confusion is only residue from a time when apple was an illustration for sin, because the two words are similar.

  6. ANNAMARIA November 8, 2011 at 4:09 am - Reply

    i believe the adam’s apple got it’s name from the story of adan and eve
    it’s obvious the name is not a coincidence it’s fact not ficts ion
    read the bible – it all starts with adam and eve the reason the world
    is the way it is all stems back to adam and eve and jesus his crucifiction
    and his return ! read the bible !

    • Spatchmo December 13, 2013 at 7:30 am - Reply

      I think you need to read The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, that says that the Earth was populated by public servants from another planet and that god was in fact a mouse who hired a man called Slartybartfast to create the world as a super computer to workout the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything, the answer to which is 42.

      As it is Written, so it must be true.

  7. William Kidd July 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    My thoughts on why it’s called the adams apple, is based on the fact the adams apple is another name for the Thyroid cartilage which protects the vocal cords right behind it. I’m guessing that since during the earlier centuries that the male gender was more dominant over the female gender, man was dominant over knowledge as well. And during those times the “traced” back from the moment Adam became “awakened” to knowledge. And thus this was passes down from generation to generation. I don’t the accuracy of this, just my personal thoughts on the possibility.

  8. Lesley November 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    The bible says that fig leaves were taken from the tree of knowledge of the good and evil, and sewn for loin cloths. It stands to reason then that the fruit Adam and Eve ate was not an apple as we have been led to believe but a fig. Fig leaves come from the fig tree therefore the fruit must be figs. By the way what tool was used to sew the leaves for loin cloths?

  9. Shawn Brown December 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    Sidenote: There ARE self-pollinating apple trees. Here’s a thorough listing : http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/article/30/

    Regardless, thanks for the article. Interesting.

    sw

  10. Russell July 8, 2013 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    And this is an other reason the bible is a load of shit that people beleve is totally true because they’re to Lazy to reaserch and put their faith in something more believable like science

  11. Colone July 18, 2013 at 10:24 am - Reply

    It’s not that the Bible is a lie it’s because you had/have corrupted interpreters that cast a shadow on what was really said/written to keep confusion, and science and religion has been in clash since forever so that argument is pointless if you’re on the opposing side, because one is right religiously and the other scientifically

  12. Laura August 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    @Shawn Brown: He wasn’t denying the existence of self-pollinating trees, only that apple trees are self-pollinating.

  13. LOVEPAREEK August 13, 2013 at 9:09 am - Reply

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE. TNX

  14. GabeC September 13, 2013 at 5:15 am - Reply

    @Laura: The title of the article Shawn Brown linked to is “Self Fertile Apples.”

    @OP: I can’t access your references for the last section (about the various Hebrew words referring to “rib”), but based on the timing and context, I’m going to guess that you’re referring to the Mishna, which wasn’t a recording of priests, but of scholars.

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