Considering a regular laptop:

enter image description here

a friend of mine said "under the keyboard" to mean the places where you usually rest your palms which is more towards you with respect to the keyboard.

I understood it to mean, the surface which stands between the motherboard and the key (which is not directly visible normally).

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say "below the keyboard" in that case? Doesn't "under" imply that its surface is hidden?

  • Yes, "below the keyboard" makes more sense. Jul 29, 2016 at 15:25
  • 2
    "Below" is perhaps a bit more idiomatic, but both are about equally meaningless -- not worth getting ones shorts in a knot about.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:35
  • 3
    Both below and under require an agreed concept of down. In the case of the notebook, there are two possibilities: the track pad area and the table. I'd consider both below and under to be ambiguous in this sense.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:40
  • 3
    I would think of both below the keyboard and under the keyboard as referring to the space inside the computer case, between keyboard and logic board. I would describe the palmrest as being in front of the keyboard, if anything. Jul 29, 2016 at 16:00
  • Obviously, it should be "in the foreground of the keyboard".
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2016 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


As a person guilty of saying "under", I personally agree that "below" is more appropriate, as it refers to two-dimensional layout (top-view of the keyboard), while "under" is typically used for three-dimensional things in which one obscures the other.

That being said, simply calling it a "palmrest" would've done a much better job.

  • Your assertion may be true, but it needs supporting evidence to be more than a 'comment' on ELU. The 'top is furthest away in 2-D, even when the plane is horizontal' metaphor is common (eg 'Put the heading at the top'). Jul 29, 2016 at 16:21

I think it is entirely a matter of perspective. In terms of using below or under, you can use either if you decide your hand is under the keyboard.

As Jane Mairs (The editor of Merriam-Webster's learner's dictionary) explains:-

"Under can have the same meaning as below, as in these examples:

We sat under a tree and rested. (Or, We sat below a tree and rested.) Draw a line under each word you don't know. (Or, Draw a line below each word you don't know.)"

In the context of the question this is the same sense, so I would say both under and below are equally applicable. However...

As I said I really think this is a matter of perspective. Is your hand really 'under' the keyboard? Well I don't think so. I would say your hand is 'adjacent' to the keyboard.

Of course if the base of the laptop is at any kind of incline then your hand could well be marginally under the keyboard.

In my view your hand is adjacent to the keyboard unless the keyboard is being held in the air with the front of it pointing at the floor.

But for all intents and purposes in everday vernacular I'd say under or below, the choice is yours!

  • I don't agree with adjacent since it doesn't imply a direction - it could mean any side.
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Jul 29, 2016 at 16:01

I think I might have said (in the area) below the keys on the keyboard, for clarity's sake.

Under the keyboard would suggest under the computer itself (where one might tuck a piece of paper for safe keeping, for example). Below the keyboard would leave me confused.

To me the keyboard means the whole surface, including the part where there are no keys, but (in the one pictured) there is a built-in mouse.

Edit - following @Jim's comment.

I am now tending to the view that beneath might be a better word to use: e.g. there is a label stuck beneath the bottom row of keys on my keyboard.

  • Below the keys on the keyboard” has me thinking about popping the keys off to have a look.
    – Jim
    Jul 29, 2016 at 15:44

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