‘Wheelbarrel’ or ‘Wheelbarrow’: How to Spell It Correctly

By Shanea Patterson, updated on November 22, 2022

Do you spell it ‘wheelbarrel’ or ‘wheelbarrow’? If you’re wondering what the correct spelling is, we’ll cover it in this article. You’ll also learn the definition of the word as well as how to use it in a sentence.

Don’t feel like skimming? The short answer is that the correct spelling is ‘wheelbarrow.’ Any other spelling of the word is incorrect.

‘Wheelbarrel’ – Common Errors in English Usage

Many people mistakenly believe that ‘wheelbarrel’ is the correct spelling of the word because the compound “word” contains the word ‘barrel,’ which is an actual word.

However, in the case of this word, you wouldn’t be talking about a ‘barrel.’

We’ll break that down in more detail later.

‘Wheelbarrel’ vs. ‘Wheelbarrow’: Which is the Correct Spelling?

Now that you know the correct spelling of the word is ‘wheelbarrow’ and not ‘wheelbarrow,’ we can move on to discussing complex words.

Understanding Compound Words

What is a compound word, you might be wondering?

A compound word is a word made up of two or more words. Each word means something on its own, and when you put the two words together, they make up a whole new word.

Compound words can have three forms:

  • Open (space between the joined words)
  • Closed (no space between the words)
  • Hyphenated (a hyphen between the joined words)

Take a look at a few examples of compound words:

  • Living room (open) = living + room
  • High school (open) = high + school
  • Peanut butter (open) = peanut + butter
  • Makeup (closed) = make + up
  • Cupcake (closed) = cup + cake
  • Basketball (closed) = basket + ball
  • Self-esteem (hyphenated) = self + esteem
  • Sister-in-law (hyphenated) = sister + in + law
  • Two-fold (hyphenated) = two + fold

Definition and Meaning 

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word is “a small, usually single-wheeled vehicle that is used for carrying small loads and is fitted with handles at the rear by which it can be pushed and guided.”

The verb definition of the word is: “to convey in a wheelbarrow.”

Let’s break it down a bit further.

As mentioned above, people might mistakenly believe the word is spelled ‘wheelbarrel’ because it contains the word ‘barrel.’

But writing the word that way would be incorrect.

The definition of ‘barrow’ is: “mountain, mound (used only in the names of hills in England),” “a large mound of earth stones over the remains of the dead: Tumulus.”

It can also mean “a male hot castrated before sexual maturity” and “a cart with a shallow box body, two wheels, and shafts for pushing it.”

That helps clear things up a bit. If you think about a ‘barrel’ versus a ‘barrow,’ you should have no issue remembering the correct spelling of the word.

A Brief History

The first known use of the word ‘barrow’ was before the 12th century, with the same meaning. The word ‘wheelbarrow’ wasn’t introduced until about the 14th century. It was introduced as a verb in 1721. 

How to Use 'Wheelbarrow' Correctly in a Sentence

Now that we’ve defined the word and broken down the compound word, we can talk about how to use it in a sentence correctly.

Take a look at a few examples of the word in a sentence:

  • Help each other with the wheelbarrow; you each take a handle.
  • The wheelbarrow is located in the shed.
  • I’m not sure if the wheelbarrow can hold all that dirt.
  • Sorry to bother you, but can I borrow your wheelbarrow?
  • Moving this mound of dirt won’t be complicated because we have a wheelbarrow.
  • We just bought a farm, and it came with a wheelbarrow.

Final Thoughts on ‘Wheelbarrel’ and ‘Wheelbarrow’

As we learned above, the correct spelling of the word is ‘wheelbarrow’ and not ‘wheelbarrel.’

If you need help remembering this, try to remember the definition of a ‘barrow’ and realize that you can’t really wheel a barrel, but you can roll it on its side. But a ‘barrow’ has two wheels that make it easy to ‘wheel.’

But you can always come back here and look through our library of articles dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases in the English language. Feel free to come back anytime and brush up on your skills.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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