Below or Bellow – What’s the Difference?

In English, even minor spelling differences can completely change the meaning of common words. In these cases, a simple typo can completely derail your sentence and turn your writing from polished prose to meaningless drivel. Luckily, you can catch most of these errors through diligent proofreading.

Below and bellow are two such words. There is only one letter’s difference between them, but they are actually different parts of speech. One is a preposition, and the other is a verb.

You might be able to use prepositions as verbs in poetry, but for formal writing, you will need to know the difference between below and bellow.

What is the Difference Between Below and Bellow?

In this post, I will compare below vs. bellow. I will show you example sentences for both words so that you can see how they appear in context.

Plus, I will include a mnemonic device that you can use to decide whether bellow or below is the better word for your writing.

When to Use Below

Definition of bellow definition of below definitionWhat does below mean? Below can be a preposition or an adverb. In both cases, it describes the position of something relative to something else, namely, something that is underneath another object.

Here are a few examples,

  • “The socket wrench is on the shelf below the adjustable wrenches,” said the mechanic. (Preposition)
  • “Stow the treasure below!” shouted the captain as the ship was overtaken by pirates. (Adverb)
  • With investment returns expected to remain below historical averages and competition from low-cost robo advisers growing, advisers are looking to differentiate themselves to justify their fees and “gain the trust” of prospective clients, says Paul Auslander, former president of the Financial Planning Association. –The Wall Street Journal

When below is a preposition, you can expect a noun to follow it, creating a prepositional phrase.

In the example from The Wall Street Journal, the prepositional phrase is below historical averages.

When to Use Bellow

Define bellow and define belowWhat does bellow mean? Bellow is a verb. To bellow is to yell loudly in a deep voice.

An angry merchant might bellow to a thief to get out of his shop, or a gladiator might bellow a threat to his opponent.

Here are a few more examples,

  • “You kids get off my lawn!” bellowed the grumpy old curmudgeon.
  • The dog bellowed his disapproval at the squirrel who was eating from the bird feeder.
  • Nor can one commend an ensemble, almost all of whom bellow their lines as if somehow being young again conferred its own invitation to run riot. –The New York Times

As a verb, bellow is conjugated as follows,

  • I bellow
  • He bellows
  • They will bellow.

The word bellows is also a unique noun. Bellows are a device for blowing air to stoke a fire. Bellows is only ever plural; there is no singular bellow.

For example,

  • Foot-operated bellows used for smelting metal were called tatara in Ancient Japan.

Trick to Remember the Difference

below versus bellowIt is easy to choose between these two words, so let’s go over a trick to remember bellow vs. below.

  • Below is a preposition and adverb that is synonymous with beneath.
  • Bellow is a verb that means to yell loudly.
  • Bellows is also a noun referring to a device that blows air onto a fire.

Bellow and its rough synonym holler each have a double L, and they are both verbs. You can use the spelling of these words as a reminder that bellow is a verb.

Summary

Is it below or bellow? Despite their similar spellings and close pronunciations, these words function as different parts of speech and are never interchangeable.

  • Below functions as a preposition or an adverb and means beneath something else.
  • Bellow is a verb that means to yell loudly, or a noun referring to a device used to keep a fire burning.

Don’t forget—you can always reread this article if you need a quick refresher on the differences between these words.