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Above vs. Below: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 3, 2023
Above refers to a higher place or position, while below indicates a lower place or position.

Key Differences

Above is used to denote a position or location at a higher level or layer than something else. For instance, when one says, "the plane flew above the clouds," it means the plane was at a higher altitude than the clouds. Below, in contrast, signifies a lower position or level, such as in "fish swimming below the surface of the water," where the fish are underneath the water's top layer.
Above can also imply superiority or a greater quantity. If you say, "His grades were above average," it means his grades were better than the standard or expected level. Below then can indicate inferiority or lesser quantity, as in "below expectations," where something doesn't meet the standard that was anticipated.
In the context of temperature or measurement, above can denote more than a certain degree or number, like "above zero degrees," indicating a temperature that is higher than zero. Below is used for less than a certain degree or number, such as "below sea level," which means a position lower in altitude than the sea's average surface.
Above might also serve in a figurative sense, such as in "above suspicion," where it suggests being so honorable that suspicion is not warranted. Below, similarly, can be figurative, like "below the belt," referring to an action that is considered unfair or not within the usual standards of decency.
In writing and formatting, above may refer to something mentioned earlier in a text or document, as in "as mentioned above." Below is then used for referring to content that appears later in a document, like "details are provided below."

Comparison Chart

Spatial Relation

At a higher place or level
At a lower place or level

Quantity or Degree

More than or superior to
Less than or inferior to


Greater than a reference point
Lower than a reference point

Figurative Use

Suggesting a higher status or condition
Implying a lower status or condition

Reference in Text

Referring to content mentioned earlier
Referring to content mentioned later

Above and Below Definitions


Exceeding in number or degree.
She scored above 90 on her exam.


At a lower level or depth.
The divers explored the world below the surface.


Higher in rank or authority.
The decision is above my paygrade.


Lower in rank or dignity.
That task is below his position.


Mentioned previously in a text.
See the diagram above for reference.


Less than in number or degree.
Temperatures dropped below freezing overnight.


At a higher level or layer.
The bird soared above the treetops.


Not meeting a certain standard.
His performance was below average.


Beyond the scope of.
Such behavior is above the law.


Coming later in a page or text.
Additional examples can be found below.


On high; overhead
The clouds above.


In or to a lower place; beneath.


Can above be used in a non-literal sense?

Yes, it can indicate superiority or higher status.

In writing, how is above different from below?

Above refers to something mentioned earlier, below to something later.

Is below always physical in context?

No, it can also be used metaphorically or in terms of status.

How is above used in regards to quantity?

It denotes more than a certain number.

Can above mean exceeding expectations?

Yes, it can imply exceeding what is normal or expected.

What does above mean?

Above means at a higher level or position.

What is the definition of below?

Below means at a lower level or position.

What is a synonym for below?

Underneath can be a synonym for below.

Is below an adjective?

It can be used as an adjective, as in "below-grade level."

Can above and below be used in navigation?

Yes, to describe relative position in directions.

Are above and below antonyms?

Yes, they generally have opposite meanings.

Does below imply inferiority?

It can, especially in a figurative sense.

Can above be used to describe sound levels?

Yes, like "the music was above the noise."

What is a synonym for above?

Over can be a synonym for above.

How does below relate to measurements?

It signifies less than a specific reference point.

How would you use above in a hierarchy?

"She is above me in the organizational chart."

Can above be used in temporal contexts?

Yes, but less commonly, as in "above the appointed time."

How would you use below regarding sea level?

"The city is located 5 meters below sea level."

Is above a preposition?

Yes, it functions as a preposition.

Can below be used in financial contexts?

Yes, as in "below the budget."
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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