'Row' vs 'Column': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on September 6, 2023

If you need to know the difference between 'row' or 'column,' this post will help.

Here is the short answer:  

  • 'Row' and 'column' both have several meanings. 
  • 'Row' is a noun for a set of information arranged in a horizontal line. 
  • 'Row' is a verb that means to propel a boat with an oar to arrange things in a row. 
  • 'Column' is a noun for a set of data in a vertical line or a pillar that runs vertically and sometimes supports a structure.

The answer above gives you a brief overview. But there is much more to learn. So, keep reading to learn the meanings, grammatical usage, and examples of these terms.

What is the Difference Between 'Row' vs. 'Column?'

The difference between ‘row’ vs. ‘column’ is that ‘rows’ are horizontal and ‘columns’ are vertical.

On a table or Excel spreadsheet, data can be added and organized in ‘rows’ and ‘columns.’

  • Rows’ are typically labeled at the top to show what information they contain, and the labels for ‘columns’ are found to the left of the data they contain.  

Both of these terms can also be verbs or action words. When you use 'row' as a verb, it means to use an oar or other device to propel a boat manually or to arrange items in a line or 'row.'

When and How to Use 'Row' vs. 'Column'

Knowing the difference between a term and when to use them are two different things. So, here are some tips for when and how to use 'row' vs. 'column.'

  • Use 'row' to describe a horizontal line of data on a spreadsheet or table.

For example, you might say:

Please refer to line 10 on the spreadsheet titled Book Club Books to Read in January

  • Use 'row' as a verb to describe the act of propelling a boat with an oar.

So, you could say:

Row the boat as fast as you can around the buoys. The fastest team will be the winner.

  • Use 'column' to refer to data in a vertical row on a document, table, or spreadsheet.

For example, I might say:

Please organize the information alphabetically in a column. 

  • Use 'column' to describe a pillar that supports the structure of a building.

As an example, someone might say:

The termites were so bad that they caused the columns to deteriorate and fall down, leaving the building structurally compromised. 

Definition of 'Row': What Does 'Row' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'row' as a noun that means:

  • The act of rowing

It can also mean:

  • Objects arranged in a straight line
  • The line objects are arranged in
  • A way or street
  • Items arranged in a horizontal line parallel to the baseline
  • A fight or quarrel

It can also be a verb that means:

  • To propel a boat with an oar
  • To form into a row
  • To engage in a quarrel or row
  • To participate in a rowing sport
  • To compete against others in rowing
  • To transport people or things in a row-powered boat or vessel
  • To move by the propulsion of oars
  • To gather into rows

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Row'

  • Rank
  • Column
  • Bank
  • String
  • Procession
  • Queue
  • Line
  • Array
  • Train
  • Chain
  • Tier
  • Cue
  • Sequence
  • Street
  • Highway
  • Road
  • Freeway
  • Thoroughfare
  • Expressway
  • Pike
  • Avenue
  • Corridor
  • Alley
  • Trail
  • Track
  • Path
  • Brawl
  • Clash
  • Argument
  • Altercation
  • Ruckus
  • Scuffle
  • Quarrel
  • Combat
  • Fight

Definition of 'Column': What Does 'Column' Mean?

The same defines the noun 'column' as:

  • An arrangement of items organized vertically

It can also mean:

  • One of two or more vertical lines of information written or printed
  • An accumulation or stack of items organized vertically
  • A regular series of news stories or articles on a specific topic
  • A supporting post or pillar
  • An object or thing that resembles a column
  • A long row of people or things
  • A grouping or stack of statistical data

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Column'

  • Line
  • String
  • Row
  • Train
  • Line
  • Rank
  • File
  • Tier
  • Sequence
  • Array
  • Cue
  • Chain
  • Echelon
  • Progression
  • Succession
  • Pillar
  • Pier
  • Post
  • Pedestal
  • Pile
  • Piling
  • Pilaster

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Row' vs. 'Column'

Pronunciation is critical whether you are giving a public speech or presentation or learning English as a second language. So, here is a guide you can reference for pronouncing 'row' vs. 'column':

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'row':

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'column':

kä-lum or käl-yum

Sample Sentences Using 'Row' vs. 'Column'

Before you leave, read these sample sentences using 'row' vs. 'column.' They will help to ensure that you remember how to use these terms in various ways.


  • When you arrange the rows, ensure they fit within the screen.
  • How often do you row in competitions?
  • Please read the data in the fourth row aloud.
  • If you plan to arrange the information in rows, label them so others know which data the row contains.


  • The column of data was so long it went on for 15 pages.
  • Columns on colonial houses support the structure and add aesthetic value.
  • Each column contains details about the characteristics of the products.
  • The columns used on wedding cakes support the weight of the cake and add stability.


  • The data was systematically arranged in rows and columns.
  • Please highlight the relevant figures in each row and column.

Review of the Difference Between 'Row' vs. 'Column'

Thank you for sticking around to read this entire post. Here is a quick recap of what you learned:

  • 'Row' is a noun for a horizontal arrangement of data on a table or spreadsheet. 
  • 'Row' is a verb that means to propel a boat using an oar or to gather information in rows. 
  • 'Column' is a noun for data arranged in a vertical line or a pillar that aids decoration or support to a structure. 
  • On a spreadsheet or table, 'rows' display data from side to side, and 'columns' arrange data from the top to the bottom. 

Even after learning the difference between terms like these, it can be challenging to keep them straight. So, if you find yourself questioning the meanings of these words in the future, you can return to this post to verify which term is correct.

You can also learn about hundreds of other confusing words here. So, if you are interested in expanding your vocabulary or improving your grammar and writing skills, read a couple more before you leave and come back often!

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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