• synonyms


  1. barley1(def 1).
  2. a grain of barley.
  3. a unit of length equal to 1/3 inch (8.5 mm).
  4. Also barley corn. a type of basket weave that produces an allover geometric pattern.
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Origin of barleycorn

1375–1425; late Middle English. See barley1, corn1


  1. John. John Barleycorn.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for barleycorn

Historical Examples of barleycorn

  • Few of them bore the somatic signs of intimacy with Mr. Barleycorn.

    Idling in Italy

    Joseph Collins

  • The lowest dimension, as in our own table of linear measure, was the Barleycorn.

  • "Thank you," said the woman; and she gave the fairy twelve shillings, which was the price of the barleycorn.

    Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales

    Hans Christian Andersen

  • A small inflamed tumour, or boil, at the edge of the eyelid, somewhat resembling a barleycorn.

  • The histology of the barleycorn is best studied by the examination of sections under the microscope.

British Dictionary definitions for barleycorn


  1. a grain of barley, or barley itself
  2. an obsolete unit of length equal to one third of an inch
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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 barleycorn


late 14c., from barley + corn (n.). Perhaps to distinguish the barley plant or the grain from its products. In Britain and U.S., the grain is used mainly to prepare liquor, hence personification as John Barleycorn (1620) in popular ballad, and many now-obsolete figures of speech, e.g. to wear a barley cap (16c.) "to be drunk."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper