Wheelbarrow or Wheelbarrel – Which is correct?

If you are wondering whether it’s Wheelbarrow or Wheelbarrel, you are in the right place. The only correct spelling is “wheelbarrow.” There is no such form as “wheelbarrel.” “Wheelbarrow” is a combination of two words, “wheel” and “barrow.”

Wheel” refers to a circular frame of hard material which rotates on an axle. As for “barrow,” it comes from the Old English “bearwe,” meaning a basket or stretcher for carrying loads.

So what does “wheelbarrowmean? By definition, a wheelbarrow is a small vehicle with one or two wheels used to transport cargo by a single operator. The operator grasps handles at the rear to push and guide the wheelbarrow.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaways regarding “wheelbarrow” vs “wheelbarrel” are:

  • Wheelbarrow” combines the wordswheel” and “barrow” whereas “wheelbarrel” substitutes in “barrel.”
  • Wheelbarrow” refers specifically to a one or two-wheeled cart pushed and steered by a walking operator.
  • Wheelbarrel” is simply a common misspelling and mispronunciation without any legitimate meaning.
  • While many people mistakenly write or say “wheelbarrel,” “wheelbarrow” remains the only correct spelling.

Is it Atleast or At Least? Learn the correct form.

Common Examples and Uses

Wheelbarrows are ubiquitous tools seen on farms, gardens, and construction sites. They allow the operator to move dirt, mulch, bricks, plants, tools, and various materials short distances.

  • A gardener uses a wheelbarrow to transport bags of soil, pots, tools, and vegetation around their property.
  • Construction workers load wheelbarrows with bricks, mortar, lumber, and more to distribute building materials around a worksite.
  • Farmers fill wheelbarrows with animal feed, hay bales, shovels, pitchforks, and other farming gear.

In each case, the wheelbarrow allows an operator to move heavy or bulky cargo without needing a vehicle or machine. The weight rests on the wheel while the operator merely guides the wheelbarrow using the handles.

What’s the Difference Between Wheelbarrow and Wheelbarrel?

There is no actual difference between “wheelbarrow” and “wheelbarrel” because “wheelbarrel” is not a real word or term. “Wheelbarrel” is simply a common misspelling of “wheelbarrow” caused by mishearing the term and substituting in a more familiar-sounding “barrel.”

Many native English speakers misremember “wheelbarrow” as “wheelbarrel” thanks to the similar sounds of “barrow” and “barrel.” Over time, the misspelled and mispronounced “wheelbarrel” becomes entrenched through repeated oral and written usage.

However, no dictionary or reference source records “wheelbarrel” as an actual variant spelling. It is an aural mistake rather than a legitimate alternative form. So while “wheelbarrel” has permeated the language through misuse, “wheelbarrow” remains the sole accurate spelling.

Synonyms and Related Words

Wheelbarrow” has few true synonyms since it refers to a specific tool. However, several related terms and phrases capture the general meaning:

  • cart
  • carrier
  • conveyance
  • hand truck
  • hauler
  • porter
  • stretcher
  • toter
  • transporter
  • trolley
  • truck
  • wagon

These words all denote devices used to move cargo. But “wheelbarrow” has the distinct sense of a small, human-powered vehicle steered by handles at the back.

So while you could broadly use any of the above synonyms when discussing transports, only “wheelbarrow” precisely denotes that iconic one-wheeled, human-powered farm and construction tool.

The Spelling Through Literature and Language Resources

To confirm that “wheelbarrow” is irrefutably the correct spelling, one can consult grammar guides, dictionaries, and historical literature. Some examples:

  • The Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Dictionary only include entries for “wheelbarrow,” not “wheelbarrel.”
  • Style manuals like The Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook all use “wheelbarrow.”
  • Historical books and novels use “wheelbarrow,” including Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”
  • No reputable reference source in the English language records “wheelbarrel” as a valid variant.

So ultimately, there is only one right way to spell this handy conveyance – “wheelbarrow.” While the misspelled “wheelbarrel” has sadly worked its way into the language through repeated misuse, it remains an error. Following authoritative writing resources makes it clear “wheelbarrow” is the sole accurate spelling.

Examples of wheelbarrow from literature

Here are some examples of the word “wheelbarrow” used in literature:

1) From John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath”:

“A small pile of wooden slats and a few wheels were all that remained, like the skeleton of a burned house. The wheelbarrows were gone.”

This passage uses “wheelbarrows” to refer to the carts used for moving possessions by the migrant farmers in the novel.

2) From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”:

“A wheelbarrow of champagne was brought out, and, while its foam sent faint ripples against the shore, we waited for the moon.”

Here the wheelbarrow carries champagne instead of dirt or bricks, representing the extravagant lifestyle of the characters.

3) From E.B. White’s children’s novel “Charlotte’s Web”:

“The rat danced with joy, pushed the wheelbarrow in a circle, upset it, pushed it back, upset it again, pushed it with his paws.”

This playful scene shows a rat happily pushing a wheelbarrow around. It exemplifies the charming, pastoral writing style.

So in summary, famous works of American literature have used “wheelbarrow” to evoke farming, construction work, parties, and childhood wonder. The word succinctly conjures vivid images familiar to most readers.


So consult a dictionary and check yourself the next time you talk about that handy equipment carting dirt, bricks, tools, plants, supplies, and anything else around a worksite! “Wheelbarrow” is the accurate term, and “wheelbarrel” should be avoided.

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