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Respiratory System Organs

Introduces the organs of the upper and lower respiratory tract.

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Respiratory System Organs

What are the organs that help you breathe?

When you think of the processes of breathing, the lungs probably come to mind. The lungs are the main organ of the respiratory system. However, many other organs are also needed for the process of respiration to take place.

Organs of The Respiratory System

Your respiratory system is made up of the tissues and organs that allow oxygen to enter your body and carbon dioxide to leave your body. Organs in your respiratory system include your:

  • Nose.
  • Mouth.
  • Larynx.
  • Pharynx.
  • Lungs.
  • Diaphragm.

These structures are shown below (Figure below).

Illustration of the organs of the respiratory system

The organs of the respiratory system move air into and out of the body.

What do you think is the purpose of each of these organs?

  • The nose and the nasal cavity filter, warm, and moisten the air you breathe. The nose hairs and the mucus produced by the cells in the nose catch particles in the air and keep them from entering the lungs.
  • Behind the nasal cavity, air passes through the pharynx, a long tube. Both food and air pass through the pharynx.
  • The larynx, also called the "voice box," is found just below the pharynx. Your voice comes from your larynx. Air from the lungs passes across thin tissues in the larynx and produces sound.
  • The trachea, or windpipe, is a long tube that leads down to the lungs, where it divides into the right and left bronchi. The bronchi branch out into smaller bronchioles in each lung. There is small flap called the epiglottis that covers your trachea when you eat or drink. The muscle controlling the epiglottis is involuntary and prevents food from entering your lungs or wind pipe.
  • The bronchioles lead to the alveoli. Alveoli are the little sacs at the end of the bronchioles (Figure below). They look like little bunches of grapes. Oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the alveoli. That means oxygen enters the blood, and carbon dioxide moves out of the blood. The gases are exchanged between the blood and alveoli by simple diffusion.
  • The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that spreads across the bottom of the rib cage. When the diaphragm contracts, the chest volume gets larger, and the lungs take in air. When the diaphragm relaxes, the chest volume gets smaller, and air is pushed out of the lungs.

Air exchange occurs at the grape-like alveoli

"Grape-like" alveoli in the lungs.


  • The organs of the respiratory system include the lungs, pharynx, larynx, trachea, and bronchi.

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Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.

  • The Respiratory System 
  1. Distinguish between inspiration and expiration. What muscle controls these processes?
  2. Where is the trachea located and what is its function?
  3. What is the relationship between the bronchi, bronchial tubes, and bronchioles? What function does this relationship serve?
  4. Why does air funnel into smaller and smaller spaces within the lungs?


  1. Name four organs in the respiratory system.
  2. What is the trachea? What does the trachea lead into?
  3. What organ is known as the voice box?
  4. What is the diaphragm? Why is the diaphragm important?

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alveoli Tiny sacs in the lungs where gas exchange takes place.
bronchi Air passages in the respiratory tract that conduct air into the lungs.
diaphragm Sheet of muscle that spreads across the bottom of the rib cage.
larynx Respiratory organ between the pharynx and trachea; also called the voice box because it allows the production of vocal sounds.
pharynx Long, tubular organ that connects the mouth and nasal cavity with the larynx; food and air pass through it.
trachea Long, tubular organ, also called the wind pipe, that carries air between the larynx and lungs.

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