Easily Confused Words: Bellow vs. Below

Bellow and below are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Bellow is a verb. It means a loud, deep tone calling noise made by animals. It sounds like a long, grunty burp. Bulls, elkmoosealligators, and koala bears all bellow. Bellowing is usually done by male animals, and it typically relates to mating or territorial behavior.

People also bellow, but it’s not for just a season, and it’s not related to mating. Bellowing means using your loudest voice to trying to get attention and prompt responsive action. A logger might wish to prevent an accident (falling object!), or a farmer needs to call his animals to come eat or seek shelter.

The softer and higher pitched a person’s voice has, the harder it is for them to bellow across a great distance.

The bellows is a noun. It means the fabric air sac found on some musical instruments. Concertinas, squeeze boxes, accordions, bayans, and bagpipes all have bellows. [The links show or play the instruments being played.]

Below is a preposition. It means located under another object. When it starts raining, people rush for cover, seeking shelter below a roof or an awning.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Belden told his father he wanted to quit medical school and play music. 

“No! I won’t have it, his Dad cried, “You’re pulling the rug out from below this family, and making the biggest mistake of your life!”  Belden never felt more energized and scared at the same time; he would make it work.


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