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[bar-uh n] /ˈbær ən/
not producing or incapable of producing offspring; sterile:
a barren woman.
unproductive; unfruitful:
barren land.
without capacity to interest or attract:
a barren period in American architecture.
mentally unproductive; dull; stupid.
not producing results; fruitless:
a barren effort.
destitute; bereft; lacking (usually followed by of):
barren of tender feelings.
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 forms
barrenly, adverb
barrenness, noun
unbarren, adjective
unbarrenly, adverb
unbarrenness, noun
Can be confused
barren, baron, baronet.
1. childless, unprolific, infertile. 2. infertile, depleted, waste. 5. ineffectual, ineffective.
1–6. fertile.
Synonym Study
2. See bare1. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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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
  • Then upon the earth did there come dearth and drought and barrenness.

    A Book of Myths Jean Lang
  • Whatever may be our experience of failure and barrenness, He is never defeated.

    The Calvary Road Roy Hession
  • My love of good is damned to barrenness; it may, and let it be!

  • Not a solitary vestige of anything green was there to enliven the barrenness.

    Culm Rock Glance Gaylord
  • The house was barrenness itself—no shades, no curtains, no decorations of any kind.

    The New Education Scott Nearing
British Dictionary definitions for barrenness


incapable of producing offspring, seed, or fruit; sterile: a barren tree
unable to support the growth of crops, etc; unproductive; bare: barren land
lacking in stimulation or ideas; dull: a rather barren play
not producing worthwhile results; unprofitable: a barren period in a writer's life
(foll by of) totally lacking (in); devoid (of): his speech was barren of wit
(of rock strata) having no fossils
Derived Forms
barrenly, adverb
barrenness, 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
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Word Origin and History for barrenness

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



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
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barrenness in Medicine

barren bar·ren (bār'ən)

  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.
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