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Carry vs. Lift: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 3, 2023
Carry means to hold and move with something, while lift means to raise something from a lower to a higher position.

Key Differences

Carrying involves moving an object while supporting it, often for some distance, and implies continued movement. Lifting, however, is the act of raising something from a lower point to a higher point, often without the implication of horizontal movement. Carry often requires sustained effort over a distance or time, whereas lift is generally a shorter-duration action.
When you carry something, you might be bearing its weight as you move from one location to another. For example, you carry groceries from the store to your car. Lifting, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily involve transportation but rather the act of moving something upwards; you lift the grocery bags out of the cart.
The term carry has multiple meanings. It can refer to holding something while moving, but it can also refer to conveying or transporting in a vehicle, or even to support the weight of something. To lift is to elevate, to bring something up against gravity, and is used more specifically.
In sports, carrying is moving while in possession of the ball, but not necessarily with it off the ground. In contrast, lifting is a term often used in weight training, where the objective is to raise weights from the ground. Carrying implies a degree of control and purpose over a distance, while lifting focuses on the initial effort of moving something upward.
Carry can also be used in abstract ways, such as carrying a tune or carrying a message, meaning to convey or maintain. Lift does not typically have these abstract uses, remaining more concrete in its meaning of physical elevation, though it can be used metaphorically as in lifting one’s spirits.

Comparison Chart


Transport or support over a distance
Raise to a higher position


Sustained effort, often longer
Short action, momentarily


Horizontal, vertical, or both
Primarily vertical


Physical and metaphorical
Primarily physical, sometimes metaphorical


Multiple contexts (e.g., emotions, messages)
Typically physical objects or weights

Carry and Lift Definitions


She carried the box upstairs.


The news lifted the company's stock prices.


The bridge can carry heavy loads.


He can lift 200 pounds at the gym.


The wind carried the sound.


Lift the end of the table while I slide the rug under.


Hold and move.
He carried the child on his shoulders.


Fly upward.
The balloon lifted into the sky.


She carried herself with dignity.


Improve mood.
Her kind words lifted his spirits.


To hold or support while moving; bear
Carried the baby in my arms.
Carrying a heavy backpack.


To direct or carry from a lower to a higher position; raise
Lift one's eyes.
Lifted the suitcase.


Does lifting always require physical strength?

Yes, lifting typically requires physical strength to raise an object.

Does carrying something always involve lifting it first?

Often, but not always; you can carry something at the same level without lifting.

Can lift be used metaphorically?

Yes, as in "lift someone's spirits," it can mean to cause an improvement.

Can the word carry imply emotional weight?

Yes, carry can imply bearing an emotional burden.

Is carry used in sports terminology?

Yes, in sports like football, carrying refers to running with the ball.

Is it possible to lift something without carrying it?

Yes, you can lift something up without moving it to another place.

What does it mean to carry a conversation?

It means to keep the conversation going, often by talking a lot oneself.

What does it mean to get a lift to a place?

It means to get a ride or be driven to a place by someone.

Can carry and lift be used interchangeably?

No, they are not interchangeable as they imply different actions.

What does it mean to carry a tune?

To sing a melody correctly and on key.

Does lifting have an antonym?

Yes, the antonym of lifting can be lowering or dropping.

Is carry used in financial contexts?

Yes, as in carrying costs for holding inventory.

Can machines be used to carry or lift?

Yes, machines like forklifts and cranes can both carry and lift objects.

Can carry have a legal connotation?

Yes, as in "carry a concealed weapon."

What does carry-over mean?

It refers to something that's transferred or extended to another context or time.

Can lifting be dangerous?

Yes, lifting heavy objects improperly can lead to injury.

Is lifting a basic mechanic in physics?

Yes, it's related to force, mass, and gravity in physics.

Is lift used in aeronautics?

Yes, lift refers to the force that makes an aircraft rise.

Can an elevator be said to lift people?

Yes, an elevator lifts people by raising them to higher floors.

Does carrying capacity refer to the environment?

Yes, it refers to the number of organisms an environment can sustain.
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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