esophagus (ĭsŏfˈəgəs) [key], portion of the digestive tube that conducts food from the mouth to the stomach. When food is swallowed it passes from the pharynx into the esophagus, initiating rhythmic contractions (peristalsis) of the esophageal wall, which propel the food along toward the stomach. The walls of the esophagus are lined with mucous glands that continue the lubrication of the food as it is conducted to the stomach. The human esophagus is about 10 in. (25 cm) long and 1 in. (2.5 cm) in diameter. See digestive system.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.