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 barrens

Historical Examples of barrens

  • There was no alternative now but to cross the barrens to Whale River on foot.

  • The ground we select is among the “barrens” before described.

    The Western World

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • T' this the lad was listenin' like a caribou o' the barrens scentin' peril.

  • There were only two settlements in The Barrens, and depots were to be erected there.

    Ralph on the Engine

    Allen Chapman

  • Just half way across The Barrens he has a house, which he calls ‘headquarters.’

    Ralph on the Engine

    Allen Chapman

British Dictionary definitions for barrens


pl n

(sometimes singular) (in North America) a stretch of usually level land that is sparsely vegetated or barren



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 barrens



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 barrens




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.