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noun, plural bar·neys.
  1. Informal.
    1. an argument.
    2. a prizefight.
    3. a fight or brawl.
    4. a blunder or mistake.
  2. a small locomotive used in mining and logging.
  3. Movie Slang. a heavily padded cover for a camera, used to reduce the camera noise so that it will not be picked up by the sound-recording equipment.

Origin of barney

First recorded in 1860–65; perhaps special uses of Barney


  1. a male given name, form of Bernard.


  1. Ber·na Eli [bur-nuh] /ˈbɜr nə/, Barney, 1878–1946, U.S. racing-car driver.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for barney

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Barney was always the sort who would rather tell a lie than the truth.

    The Avenger

    E. Phillips Oppenheim

  • "It's Barney Black and his wife," he answered, in a whisper.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • I caught a glimpse of him at the club, that time when I went there with Barney—Godfreys!

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Why, Barney Black got after me only the other day about you.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • The Barney chap lived there with a Chinaman who did his housework.

British Dictionary definitions for barney


  1. a noisy argument
verb (intr)
  1. mainly Australian and NZ to argue or quarrel

Word Origin

C19: of unknown origin


  1. Bruce. born 1950, British fashion designer
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for barney


1859, British slang, "lark, spree, rough enjoyment," of uncertain origin. Later also "a fixed prize-fight."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper