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I'm fairly confident that it's not a mangled 'Wheeled Barrel'. I've heard of barrows in reference to deep graves, or underground storage chambers.

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4 Answers

From Merriam-Webster:

Origin of BARROW

Middle English barew, from Old English bearwe; akin to Old English beran to carry — more at bear First Known Use: before 12th century

The addition of "hand" or "wheel" serves to indicate how it is moved along.

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Another definition of barrow is an apparatus for carrying things. The OED gives this:

A utensil for the carrying of a load by two or more men; a stretcher, a bier; spec. a flat rectangular frame of transverse bars, having shafts or ‘trams’ before and behind, by which it is carried; sometimes with four legs to raise it from the ground. Now more usually called hand-barrow to distinguish it from the wheel-barrow.

Looks like the early wheel-barrows where stretchers or shallow boxes (upon a single wheel).

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They are two different words - that just happen to have ended up with the same spelling.

barrow (1) "vehicle for carrying a load," c.1300, barewe, probably from an unrecorded O.E. *bearwe "basket, barrow," from beran "to bear, to carry"

barrow (2) "mound," O.E. beorg (W.Saxon), berg (Anglian) "barrow, mountain, hill, mound," from P.Gmc. *bergaz (cf. O.S., O.Fris., O.H.G. berg "mountain," O.N. bjarg "rock"), from PIE base *bheregh- "high, elevated"

(http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=barrow)

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The distinguishing mark of a wheelbarrow, as opposed to the ordinary barrow or handcart used by street vendors including sweet Molly Malone, is that it has only one wheel.

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