bar·​ran·​ca | \ bə-ˈraŋ-kə How to pronounce barranca (audio) \
variants: or less commonly barranco \ bə-​ˈraŋ-​(ˌ)kō How to pronounce barranca (audio) \
plural barrancas also barrancos

Definition of barranca

1 : a deep gully or arroyo with steep sides
2 : a steep bank or bluff

Examples of barranca in a Sentence

the intimidating barrancas that can be found in the Sierra Nevada

First Known Use of barranca

1648, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for barranca

borrowed from American Spanish, from Spanish, feminine derivative of barranco "cliff, precipice, gully, ravine," of pre-Latin substratal origin

Note: Outcomes of a pre-Latin form *barrank-, with variants, are known primarily from Iberia and southern France, with outliers in Piedmont (Val Sesia baranca), Switzerland (Surselvan vraunca) and Calabria and Sicily (see references in Joan Coromines, Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, Madrid, 1984). Greek pharang-, pháranx "gully, chasm" seems inseparable from the Romance etymon (see note at pharynx)—all perhaps evidence of a trans-European substratal terrain term (or a pre-Indo-European Wanderwort?). The hypothesis of derivation with a suffix *-anka from a base *barr- "bar, barrier" (see bar entry 1) seems unlikely, despite forms such as Occitan barrancon "rung of a chair or ladder," almost certainly of secondary origin (cf. Johannes Hubschmid in Vox Romanica, vol. 11 [1950], pp. 265-66).

Learn More About barranca

Time Traveler for barranca

Time Traveler

The first known use of barranca was in 1648

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near barranca




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for barranca

Cite this Entry

“Barranca.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on barranca Encyclopedia article about barranca


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!