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barren

[bar-uhn]
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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.
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noun
  1. Usually barrens. level or slightly rolling land, usually with a sandy soil and few trees, and relatively infertile.
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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 for barren

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Synonym study

2. See bare1.

Antonyms for barren

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

Related Words for barren

desolate, sterile, arid, parched, impoverished, infertile, empty, flat, dry, fallow, waste, desert, effete, fruitless, impotent, unfruitful, unproductive, infecund, unbearing, uncultivable

Examples from the Web for barren

Contemporary Examples of barren

Historical Examples of barren

  • They are barren, till the imagination has tenanted them with possibilities of danger and dismay.

    Malbone

    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • How long should its followers lurk in the barren lands of the North?

  • But she did not allow herself to fall into the idleness of barren speculation.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • And both were so happy, so all in all to each other, as they left that barren threshold!

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • Once the earth was but a ball of dead, cold rock and barren sand.

    Classic Myths

    Mary Catherine Judd


British Dictionary definitions for barren

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
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Derived Formsbarrenly, adverbbarrenness, noun

Word Origin for barren

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 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]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

barren in Medicine

barren

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