\ ə-ˈlō How to pronounce alow (audio) \

Definition of alow

: below alow in the ship's hold

Alow Has Nautical Origins

In nautical use, alow means "in or to a lower part of the vessel," indicating the deck or the area of the rigging closest to the deck, or below-deck as opposed to above-deck. The opposite of "alow" in this sense is "aloft," used to indicate a higher part of the vessel. Yet, while we are still likely to encounter "aloft," in both nautical and non-nautical use, "alow" has become something of a rarity. When encountered, it is usually found in the combination "alow and aloft." This phrase literally refers to the upper and lower parts of a ship or its rigging, but it can also be used to mean "completely" or "throughout" - similar to the more familiar "high and low."

First Known Use of alow

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alow

Middle English, from a- entry 1 + low

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about alow

Time Traveler for alow

Time Traveler

The first known use of alow was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about alow

Statistics for alow

Cite this Entry

“Alow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

Comments on alow

What made you want to look up alow? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!