Word Confusion: Lo versus Low

Posted August 29, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I ran across this particular confusion when reading a Digital Book World post and the author used “low and behold these are the kids”. I wasn’t sure if cattle were mooing, if the reader was supposed to moo or if the kids were goats…?

This one is really simple to get right. Almost always, a lo will be biblical and usually it’s an angel proclaiming something. It’s not hard to figure out. Think behold, hey, or look as in Lo, the burning bush.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Lo Low
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster

“AC/DC’s Lo and Behold” album courtesy of Rare MP3: Digitally Sound Music

Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, & Flint with their album, Lo and Behold

Image courtesy of Mac Nutrition

Part of Grammar:
Abbreviation; Interjection Adjective 1; Adverb; Noun;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 2

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: lows
Past tense or past participle: lowed
Gerund or present participle: lowing

Liaison officer

Calls attention or expresses wonder or surprise

Of less than average height from top to bottom or to the top from the ground

Below average in amount, extent, or intensity


Ranking below other people or things in importance or class

Depressed or lacking in energy

In or into a low position or state


At or to a low pitch

A low point, level or figure 1
A particularly bad or difficult moment

[Informal] A state of depression or low spirits

An area of low atmospheric pressure; a depression

A sound made by cattle 2

  • A moo

Verb, intransitive:
[Of a cow] Make a characteristic deep sound

Verb, transitive:
To utter by or as by lowing

Get the LO to see to that.

Lo these many years ago.

Lo and behold…

The table was too low to use as a dining table.

They are surviving on a low income.

Be sure to cook it over low heat.

Ammunition’s getting low, sarge.

Third world countries have a lower standard of living.

Graffiti is considered a low art form.

He has a low cunning.

I was feeling low.

She pressed on, bent low to protect her face.

We were talking low so we wouldn’t wake Dean.

The sopranos have to sing rather low.

His popularity ratings are at an all-time low.

The highs and lows of an actor’s life.

In the distance, we heard the low of a distant herd.

Verb, intransitive:
The cattle are lowing.

Verb, transitive:
“The lowing of a cow or the voice of a ploughman could scarcely be heard from Cashel to the farthest point of Kerry” (Dictionary.com).

“At evening, the distant lowing of some cow in the horizon brought a sense of peace to the farmhouse” (Dictionary.com).

Adjective: low-alcohol, low-altitude, low-born, low-budget, low-cal, low-carb, low-carbon, low-class, low-cost, low-cut, low-density, low-down, low-fi, low-flying, low-grade, low-heeled, low-impact, low-income, lowish, low-key, low-level, low-lying, low-maintenance, low-minded, low-necked, low-nicotine, lowball, lowbrow, lowdown, lower, lowest, well, you get the idea
Adverb: lower, lowest
Noun: low-angle shot, low-fi, low-hanging fruit, low-loader, lowball, lowbrow, lowdown, lowlife, lowlight, lowness, overlowness
Verb, transitive: lowball
History of the Word:
Middle English from the Old English, , before the 12th century 1 Middle English from the Old Norse lágr which is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch laag; it is also related to lie low.

2 Old English hlōwan is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch loeien which is from an Indo-European root shared by Latin clamare meaning to shout.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Death and the Gravedigger” by Carlos Schwabe is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.