To determine whether airway size correlates with measures of lung or body size, we used the acoustic reflection technique to calculate tracheal cross-sectional area in 103 healthy young adults. Men have significantly larger tracheas than women [2.48 +/- 0.08 vs. 1.91 +/- 0.05 (SE) cm2, P less than 0.001]. Within each sex, there is no correlation between tracheal size and body size or maximal expiratory flows. There is a significant positive correlation between tracheal area and vital capacity in males only (r = 0.36, P less than 0.01). These results support the concept of dysanapsis, relatively independent growth of the airways and lung parenchyma, as well as sex-related differences in airway size and growth. Inherent airway size may be a factor in the development and/or progression of lung disease.