AskDefine | Define epiglottis

Dictionary Definition

epiglottis n : a flap of cartilage that covers the windpipe while swallowing [also: epiglottides (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Epiglottis



from New Latin, from Greek "epi-" on + "glottis"


(Canada) /ˌɛpɪˈglɑtɪs/


epiglottis (English plural epiglottises; classical plural epiglottides)
  1. A cartilaginous organ in the throat of terrestrial vertebrates covering the glottis when swallowing to prevent food and liquid from entering the trachea, and in Homo sapiens also a speech organ.
    My epiglottis is full of bees!

Derived terms

Related terms


an organ

Extensive Definition

The epiglottis is a lid-like flap of elastic cartilage tissue covered with a mucous membrane, attached to the root of the tongue. It projects obliquely upwards behind the tongue and the hyoid bone.

Anatomy and function

The epiglottis guards the entrance of the glottis, the opening between the vocal folds.
It is normally pointed upward, but during swallowing, elevation of the hyoid bone draws the larynx upward; as a result, the epiglottis folds down to a more horizontal position. In this manner it prevents food from going into the trachea and instead directs it to the esophagus, which is more posterior.
The epiglottis is one of nine cartilaginous structures that make up the larynx (voice box). (There are 3 single laryngeal cartilages: thyroid, epiglottis, cricoid and also 3 paired laryngeal cartilages: arytenoid, cuneiform and corniculate).

Clinical significance


The glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX) sends fibers to the upper epiglottis that contribute to the afferent limb of the gag reflex. The superior laryngeal branch of the vagus nerve (CN X) sends fibers to the lower epiglottis that contribute to the afferent limb of the cough reflex.

Infection of the epiglottis

In children, the epiglottis will occasionally become infected with Haemophilus influenzae or Streptocoche in the trachea, causing massive inflammation. This condition has become rare in countries where vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae (HIB) is administered.

Additional images

Image:Illu larynx.jpg|Larynx Image:Kehlkopf Pferd.jpg|Cut through the larynx of a horse


External links

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epiglottis in Catalan: Epiglotis
epiglottis in German: Epiglottis
epiglottis in Spanish: Epiglotis
epiglottis in Esperanto: Epigloto
epiglottis in French: Épiglotte
epiglottis in Korean: 후두개
epiglottis in Italian: Epiglottide
epiglottis in Hebrew: מכסה הגרון
epiglottis in Dutch: Strotklepje
epiglottis in Polish: Nagłośnia
epiglottis in Portuguese: Epiglote
epiglottis in Finnish: Kurkunkansi
epiglottis in Swedish: Struplock
epiglottis in Thai: ฝาปิดกล่องเสียง
epiglottis in Ukrainian: Надгортанник
epiglottis in Yiddish: אפיגלויטיס
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