In the hypertrophic zone of the cartilaginous growth plate, chondrocytes enlarge, assume a more spherical shape, and form a population of cells called the hypertrophic chondrocytes. The mechanisms that are involved in the formation of hypertrophic chondrocytes are poorly understood. Cell hypertrophy usually refers to an increase in cell size and volume associated with an increase in organelles. In this study, we sought to determine whether the formation of hypertrophic chondrocytes represents true cell hypertrophy associated with an increase in organelles or whether it is due to swelling and fluid accumulation. Morphometric analyses of electron micrographs were carried out to determine changes in cell number, cell volume, cell organelle volumes, and matrix volumes in the reserve zone, upper proliferative zone, lower proliferative zone, upper hypertrophic zone, and lower hypertrophic zone. Between the upper proliferative zone and the lower hypertrophic zone, the cells increased their mean volume more than 500 per cent. As they enlarged, their matrices altered; territorial matrix volume increased as its collagen content decreased, and interterritorial matrix volume decreased as its collagen content increased between the lower proliferative zone and the lower hypertrophic zone. Between the upper proliferative zone and the lower hypertrophic zone, the absolute volume per cell of endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi membranes, and mitochondria increased 126 per cent, while the volume of cytoplasm and nucleoplasm increased 779 per cent, apparently by accumulation of water. Cell organelles of the lower hypertrophic zone did not show the changes that are associated with cell injury or death. Thus, the synthesis of organelles contributed to chondrocyte enlargement, but the primary mechanism of cell enlargement was cytoplasmic and nuclear swelling.