Grammar

Wheelbarrel or Wheelbarrow? Only One is Right

Is that contraption to haul things a wheelbarrel or wheelbarrow? Spellcheck barely lets me type one of them.

I was in line at a store the other day when I heard two older women talking about gardening. I thought I heard something unusual but it took hearing it a couple of more times before I spotted what my brain was picking out.

One of the women was talking about using her “wheelbarrel” to carry some sort of plants she was placing around her yard.

If you stop and think about it for a few minutes, longer than any rational person would ever spend thinking about such a thing, the notion of a “wheelbarrel” almost makes sense. After all, imagine taking a barrel, or a big oil drum, for example, cutting it half from top to bottom, taking one half and mounting it onto a frame with handles on one end and a big wheel on the other and you essentially have the very thing she meant to say.

The only trouble is there’s no such thing as a “wheelbarrel.”

My spellcheck is so determined to correct what it perceives as an obvious error that it didn’t stop autocorrecting the misspelling until I’d just typed it for the fifth time.

(If it could speak, my spellcheck would probably have just said, “Okay, fine. Be an idiot. See if I care.”)

Obviously, the woman meant to say a wheelbarrow, which is a device for hauling things.

But wheelbarrow is one of those words we hear more than we ever see spelled out, and when it comes to words like that, sometimes how we pronounce them depends on what we think we hear rather than what we’ve seen somewhere.

In her case, she must have misheard “wheelbarrel” or heard someone else mispronounce a “wheelbarrow” and have continued the tradition.

At least for you, as summer gardening season kicks into high gear, you’ll be able to avoid this mistake!

4 Comments

  1. You are absolutely correct in regards to the half barrel on the forked frame it was introduced by wine growers who needed to delicately transport grapes from vineyard to the press after being squeezed and some kind of yeast added it was put into barrel for 12 days to 10 months and then into bottles, Having excess barrels was common, I’m sure. So, half of a barrel, a wheel and axel, and 2 shovel handles a few nails later and voila … wheelbarrel wheelbarrow
    (Funny, wheelbarrel is spell check, barrow is not)

  2. what the hecks a ‘barrow’ I like barrel better. We always called the grassy edge of the road the ‘bar pit’. When I was reading, my book referred to a ‘barrow pit’. I’m so confused. Please send your response to me at sungirl905@gmail.com Thanks, I’m so interested in what you know

    1. I know the meaning of both. We don’t use barrows anymore, but we still use barrels. Words change and so does the pronunciation. Otherwise we would still pronounce the “k” in knife.

      1. Barrels are easier transport than boxes or crates one person can move 200* pounds in a barrel by tilting it and pulling on it like a steering wheel, for short stable moves, or putting it on its side and rolling it for long distance in open places, I have no idea what a barrow is. I agree with the author as it is simply misunderstood.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.