Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

barren

[bar-uh n]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
adjective
  1. not producing or incapable of producing offspring; sterile: a barren woman.
  2. unproductive; unfruitful: barren land.
  3. without capacity to interest or attract: a barren period in American architecture.
  4. mentally unproductive; dull; stupid.
  5. not producing results; fruitless: a barren effort.
  6. destitute; bereft; lacking (usually followed by of): barren of tender feelings.
noun
  1. Usually barrens. level or slightly rolling land, usually with a sandy soil and few trees, and relatively infertile.

Origin of barren

1200–50; Middle English bareyn(e), barayn(e) < Anglo-French barai(gn)e, Old French brahaigne (French bréhaigne (of animals) sterile), akin to Spanish breña scrubby, uncultivated ground, Upper Italian barena land along a lagoon covered by high water; apparently < Celtic, compare Welsh braenar, Irish branar fallow land, but derivational details unclear
Related formsbar·ren·ly, adverbbar·ren·ness, nounun·bar·ren, adjectiveun·bar·ren·ly, adverbun·bar·ren·ness, noun
Can be confusedbarren baron baronet

Synonyms

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
1. childless, unprolific, infertile. 2. infertile, depleted, waste. 5. ineffectual, ineffective.

Synonym study

2. See bare1.

Antonyms

1–6. fertile.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for barrenness

Historical Examples

  • The barrenness of the Causses arises, as will be seen, from natural causes.

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • Nature seemed to try to conceal the barrenness of the spot with beauty.

  • Directly ahead was a land of desolation, radiant in its barrenness.

    Two Thousand Miles Below

    Charles Willard Diffin

  • We are struck with the aspect of barrenness caused by the absence of vegetation.

    Aztec Land

    Maturin M. Ballou

  • You will love it through all its barrenness, and never part with it.

    Luttrell Of Arran

    Charles James Lever


British Dictionary definitions for barrenness

barren

adjective
  1. incapable of producing offspring, seed, or fruit; sterilea barren tree
  2. unable to support the growth of crops, etc; unproductive; barebarren land
  3. lacking in stimulation or ideas; dulla rather barren play
  4. not producing worthwhile results; unprofitablea barren period in a writer's life
  5. (foll by of) totally lacking (in); devoid (of)his speech was barren of wit
  6. (of rock strata) having no fossils
Derived Formsbarrenly, adverbbarrenness, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French brahain, of uncertain origin
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 barrenness

n.

late 14c., literal; mid-14c., figurative (of spiritual emptiness), from barren + -ness.

barren

adj.

c.1200, from Old French baraigne, baraing "sterile, barren" (12c.), perhaps originally brahain, of obscure derivation, perhaps from a Germanic language. In England, originally used of women, of land in France. Of land in English from late 14c. As a noun, mid-13c., "a barren woman;" later of land.

BARRENS. Elevated lands, or plains upon which grow small trees, but never timber. [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

barrenness in Medicine

barren

(bărən)
adj.
  1. Not producing offspring.
  2. Incapable of producing offspring.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.