barren

1 of 2

adjective

bar·​ren ˈber-ən How to pronounce barren (audio)
ˈba-rən
1
: not reproducing: such as
a
: incapable of producing offspring
used especially of females or matings
barren women
b
: not yet or not recently pregnant
c
of plants : habitually failing to fruit
barren apple trees
2
: not productive: such as
a
: producing little or no vegetation : desolate
barren deserts
b
: producing inferior crops
barren soil
c
: unproductive of results or gain : fruitless
a barren scheme
3
: devoid, lacking
used with of
barren of excitement
4
: lacking interest or charm
a barren routine
5
: lacking inspiration or ideas
a barren mind
barrenly adverb
barrenness
ˈber-ə(n)-nəs How to pronounce barren (audio)
ˈba-rə(n)-
noun

barren

2 of 2

noun

1
barrens plural, geography : an extent of usually level land having an inferior growth of trees or little vegetation
2
: a tract of barren land
Choose the Right Synonym for barren

bare, naked, nude, bald, barren mean deprived of naturally or conventionally appropriate covering.

bare implies the removal of what is additional, superfluous, ornamental, or dispensable.

an apartment with bare walls

naked suggests absence of protective or ornamental covering but may imply a state of nature, of destitution, or of defenselessness.

poor half-naked children

nude applies especially to the unclothed human figure.

a nude model posing for art students

bald implies actual or seeming absence of natural covering and may suggest a conspicuous bareness.

a bald mountain peak

barren often suggests aridity or impoverishment or sterility.

barren plains

Example Sentences

Adjective Few creatures can thrive on these barren mountaintops. The book was good, but I found the barren lives of the characters depressing. Noun lived out in the barrens where it was impossible to grow anything
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Just a 10-minute drive from the Kherson city center, where coffee shops and restaurants are reopening and bands have performed concerts in the main square, the streets of Antonivka remain barren. Serhii Korolchuk, Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2022 During the worst of the pandemic, L.A.’s karaoke clubs were just as barren as its concert venues. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 19 Nov. 2022 For much of the 20th century, Qatar was a barren Persian Gulf backwater better known for pearl diving than power politics. Rory Smith, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2022 Bushnell South aims to create a new neighborhood connecting Bushnell Park with the city neighborhoods to the south, replacing a barren jumble of parking lots near the state Capitol. Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant, 16 Nov. 2022 Now, the reputational damage of reaching for Miller and downplaying his racial animus is much worse than flak for a barren farm system. Christopher L. Gasper, BostonGlobe.com, 9 Nov. 2022 The family are led from their beds into a barren hut where they are shot and bayoneted. K.j. Yossman, Variety, 7 Nov. 2022 The canines will receive love, comfort, beds, enrichment, and veterinary care at the rehab center — a far cry from the uncomfortable conditions of a barren dog meat farm cage. Kelli Bender, Peoplemag, 3 Nov. 2022 By themselves, the young trees lining a still barren boulevard in Vienna’s newest neighborhood hardly look like climate warriors. Time, 20 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'barren.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English bareine, from Anglo-French barain, perhaps of Celtic origin; akin to Middle Welsh brynar fallow land

Noun

noun derivative of barren entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1651, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of barren was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near barren

Cite this Entry

“Barren.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/barren. Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

barren 1 of 2

adjective

bar·​ren ˈbar-ən How to pronounce barren (audio)
1
a
: not able to produce offspring
used especially of females
b
: usually failing to fruit
barren apple trees
2
a
: producing inferior or little to no vegetation
barren soils
b
: not producing results or gain
a barren plan
barrenly adverb
barrenness noun

barren

2 of 2

noun

: a tract of barren land

Medical Definition

barren

adjective

bar·​ren ˈbar-ən How to pronounce barren (audio)
: incapable of producing offspring
used especially of females or matings
barrenness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on barren

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