bar·​ran·​ca bə-ˈraŋ-kə How to pronounce barranca (audio)
variants or less commonly barranco
plural barrancas also barrancos
: a deep gully or arroyo with steep sides
: a steep bank or bluff

Example Sentences

the intimidating barrancas that can be found in the Sierra Nevada
Recent Examples on the Web Jones shifted the fairway toward the canyon rim, with little rough or foliage to stop a golf ball from bounding into the barranca. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 June 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'barranca.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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).

First Known Use

1648, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of barranca was in 1648

Dictionary Entries Near barranca

Cite this Entry

“Barranca.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

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