The Tallest People in the World Share These Curious Qualities

By: Sascha Bos  | 
There are tall friends, and then there are friends who make you feel like you're trying to have a conversation with someone who's literally the tallest human on the planet. NoSystem images / Getty Images

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average height in the United States is 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters) for adult men and 5 feet, 3.5 inches (1.61 meters) for adult women. But some people can reach heights upwards of 7 or 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters)!

Here, we'll learn about some of the tallest people in the world.


What Makes Someone Tall?

Height is mostly genetic, but also depends on:

  • Where you live: Some countries have a lower average height than others, partly explained by genetic differences but also due to factors like malnutrition.
  • When you live: Some populations have gotten taller over the past century (South Korean women gained almost 8 inches or 20.2 centimeters, and Iranian men gained 6.5 inches or 16.5 centimeters), while others have gotten shorter.
  • Medical conditions: Some childhood diseases can stunt growth, while other conditions, like gigantism, can do the opposite.
  • Biological sex: In its analysis of 100 years of data from 200 countries, the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) found men were, on average, taller than women in every country. Men born in 1896 were an average of 4.33 inches (11 centimeters) taller than women; 100 years later, in 1996, men were 4.72 inches (12 centimeters) taller.


World's Tallest Population

There's one country whose citizens stand a bit taller than the rest: the Netherlands. According to NCD-RisC, Dutch men are "the tallest people on the planet" at an average height of 5 feet 11.85 inches (182.5 centimeters) throughout the last quarter of the 20th century. (This author's Dutch father is 6 feet, 4 inches, or 1.93 meters.)

Other countries with men over 181 centimeters (5 feet, 11.26 inches) include Belgium (the Netherlands' neighbor to the south), Estonia, Latvia and Denmark.


The tallest women in the world are over 168 centimeters (5 feet, 6 inches) and live in Latvia, the Netherlands, Estonia and the Czech Republic.

World's Tallest Living Woman

Rumeysa Gelgi of Turkey holds the Guinness World Record for tallest woman living. When she was measured in May 2021, Gelgi was 7 feet, 0.7 inches (2.15 meters) tall.

Before achieving the record for tallest woman alive, Gelgi was the tallest teenager alive (female). Gelgi also holds records for the longest finger on a living female person (4.40 inches or 11.2 centimeters) and largest hands on a living female person (her right hand is 9.81 inches or 24.93 centimeters and her left is 9.55 inches or 24.26 centimeters).


Gelgi was born with Weaver Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes accelerated growth, and spent her childhood in and out of the hospital. Today, she's a web developer and activist.

“Living with some severe diagnoses for my lifetime inspired me to raise awareness, help to get treatment options further and empower other individuals who are in similar situations," Gelgi told Guinness World Records.


The Tallest Person Alive Today

Sultan Kösen (also from Turkey) achieved the world record for tallest man living in 2011 when he measured at 8 feet, 2.8 inches (2.51 meters).

As the world's tallest man, Kösen also holds the record for the world's tallest person and largest hands on a living person. (Kösen's hands are 11.22 inches or 28.5 centimeters long and span 12 inches or 30.48 centimeters.)


The record was previously held by Xi Chun of China, who measured 7 feet, 8.9 inches (2.36 meters).

The Tallest People Ever

The tallest man — and person — ever was Robert Wadlow (1918–1940) of the U.S. The last time he was measured, in June 1940, Wadlow was 8 feet, 11.1 inches (2.72 meters) tall. Wadlow died just 18 days later of a septic blister caused by an improperly fitted brace.

Unsurprisingly, Wadlow also had the largest feet ever (1 foot 6.5 inches or 47 centimeters long) and largest hands ever (12.75 inches or 32.4 centimeters long).


Zeng Jinlian (1964–1982) of China was 8 feet, 1 inch (2.46 centimeters) when she died, making her the tallest woman ever. According to Guinness World Records, Zeng is the only woman to have passed 8 feet (about 2.44 meters) in height.

Professionally Tall People

For some people, being tall is part of their job.

Basketball Players

Height provides a distinct advantage in basketball, which involves placing a ball in a hoop 10 feet (3.05 meters) high. In the 2023-24 season, the average height of an NBA player was 6 feet, 6.5 inches, or 1.99 meters.


The current tallest basketball player in the WNBA is 6-foot-11-inch (2.12-meter) Han Xu of China, who plays for the New York Liberty. When she was drafted in 2019 at age 19, Han became the first Chinese player drafted to the WNBA in 22 years.

Han is just about 3 inches (6 centimeters) shorter than the tallest WNBA player of all time, Poland's Malgorzata "Margo" Dydek. Dydek played for the San Antonio Silver Stars (formerly Utah Starzz, the Connecticut Sun and the Los Angeles Sparks before retiring in 2008. She died of a heart attack in 2011.

As of the 2024 season, the tallest active NBA player is France's Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs at 7 feet, 4 inches (2.24 meters) tall. Wembanyama is just 3 inches (7 cm) shorter than the tallest NBA players of all time, Romanian Gheorghe Mureșan and Sudanese Manute Bol, who were both 7 feet, 7 inches (2.31 meters) tall when they played.

Manute Bol died in 2010 at age 47 of kidney failure; Bol's son Bol Bol is 7 feet 3 inches (2.21 meters) tall and plays for the Phoenix Suns.

Runway Models

According to a 2024 market report from Gitnux, the average height of a female model in the U.S. is 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters), making modeling one of the tallest professions.

In 2023, 5-foot-11-inch (1.8-meter) Chinese model Yilan Hua walked in more fashion shows than any other model. Other tall supermodels include Australian Elle Macpherson (5 feet, 11.75 inches or 1.82 meters) and American Karlie Kloss (6 feet, 1.5 inches or 1.87 meters).

Ekaterina Lisina of Russia holds the world record for tallest professional model. At 6 feet, 8.77 inches (2.05 meters), Lisina is taller than most models (male or female), but shorter than the world's tallest living woman. (Lizina also played basketball professionally, winning the bronze at the 2008 Olympics.)