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 for barren

Synonym study

2. See bare1.

Antonyms for barren

1–6. fertile. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for barrenness

Historical Examples of barrenness

  • 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



incapable of producing offspring, seed, or fruit; sterilea barren tree
unable to support the growth of crops, etc; unproductive; barebarren land
lacking in stimulation or ideas; dulla rather barren play
not producing worthwhile results; unprofitablea 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 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 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

Medicine definitions for barrenness




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