I’m having some confusion about the word nostril. I always thought it was it actual channel or cavity or opening in the nose. But some people seem to refer to the outside part of the nose (left and right) as nostril, the two “flaps” for lack of a better word.

I mean this:


I’ve always called the B part nostrils, but I actually don’t know exactly what I would call the A part.

Another word that’s also associated with this is the nose’s vestibule, but as far as I can tell that also refers to the channel or opening, not to the outer or side part.

Who can shed some light on this? What are the right terms for the A part and the B as separate things?

  • Note that phrases like "flared nostrils" are commonplace, even if "ala" is a relevant biological term.
    – Mark S.
    Sep 3 '17 at 16:33
  • 1
    @MarkS.The confusion might lie in the fact that "to flare" is to make wider. The nostrils (the holes) are indeed what is being made wider (what is being flared). But to do that one must move the alar.
    – R.M.
    Sep 3 '17 at 22:21
  • 1
    Ala is a technical term that's not widely known. If you're looking for a word that's readily understandable to casual readers, just say nose or nostrils. It's very common to use metonymy when describing openings (mouth, anus, vent, etc)
    – barbecue
    Sep 4 '17 at 1:01

It's called the nasal ala (adjectival form: alar - thanks @tchrist; plural: alae - thanks Deepak) or wing of the nose.

It refers to the wing-shaped structures that make up the walls of the nostrils. It is the lateral surface of the external nose that is also referred to by the name "Wing of the nose" or "Nasal ala."

- bodterms.weebly.com

  • 4
    I believe that alar is here simply the adjectival form of the noun ala, just as specular is for speculum/specula and as molar is for mola, et hoc genus omne. :)
    – tchrist
    Sep 3 '17 at 14:27
  • @tchrist That makes sense. I've edited my answer accordingly.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 3 '17 at 14:34
  • The plural is alae.
    – Deepak
    Sep 4 '17 at 16:23

The anatomical term is ala of nose:

  • The ala of the nose (wing of the nose) is the lateral surface of the external nose, cartilagenous in makeup, and which flares out to form a rounded eminence around the nostril. It is formed from the lateral nasal processes.


enter image description here
Illustration from Richard E. Davis, MD; Glossary of Terms Commonly Used in Primary & Revision Rhinoplasty.


We Biologists refer to the nasal openings (present in birds and mammals) you have labelled B as the nares.

  • Welcome to ELU. Answers are generally better received if they demonstrate some independent corroboration (see the other answers here). Also, I guess that nares is plural and the singular is not nare.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 5 '17 at 19:49
  • The question was the name of A, not B.
    – jejorda2
    Sep 5 '17 at 19:50
  • @jejorda2 "What are the right terms for the A part and the B as separate things?"
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 5 '17 at 20:14
  • The singular for nares is naris. Apr 6 at 6:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.