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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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.


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).


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"



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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