bar·ren | \ˈber-ən, ˈba-rən\

Definition of barren 

(Entry 1 of 2)

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



Definition of barren (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Other Words from barren


barrenly adverb
barrenness \ˈber-ə(n)-nəs, ˈba-rə(n)- \ noun

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

Examples of barren in a Sentence


Few creatures can thrive on these barren mountaintops. The book was good, but I found the barren lives of the characters depressing.


lived out in the barrens where it was impossible to grow anything
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The leaves had not yet slipped into their colorful fall suits, but my hair had turned into a barren silvery forest. Si Liberman, San Antonio Express-News, "A sentimental journey to Montreal and Quebec City," 28 June 2018 At the center of The Can of Anido is Maran (Xie Jia-hui), an old aboriginal farmer who spends his days silently cultivating his ailing crops and feeding himself with pintsized yam in his barren, rickety hut. Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Ten Years Taiwan': Film Review," 13 July 2018 His team cultivates fields of grass on this desert land, carves it into sheets, rolls them up like rugs, and sends them out to beautify otherwise barren areas. Andrew Keh, New York Times, "The 2022 World Cup Plants Some Trees and Prepares to Step Into the Spotlight," 12 July 2018 Until the miners arrived, these dunes were a quasi-barren wasteland — good only for weekend adventurers zipping around on buggies. David Wethe / Bloomberg, Time, "Why This Sand From Texas Is Suddenly Worth $80 a Ton," 10 July 2018 Brazil's defeat continues their barren run in European World Cups., "Brazil Manager Full of Praise for Belgium After 'Painful' World Cup Exit," 7 July 2018 In a land of barren, volcanic landscapes and a rich tradition of epic sagas revolving around family vendettas and strong women, Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s new movie starts with a tree. Eve Macsweeney, Vogue, "Under the Tree," 6 July 2018 But in 8 billion years, the sun will collapse into a white dwarf, taking away our solar system's source of heat and energy and leaving it a barren wasteland. Sophie Weiner, Popular Mechanics, "What Will Happen in the Next 100 Trillion Years?," 12 Aug. 2017 Whole reefs can quickly turn into barren wastelands. Elena Bectoros, The Christian Science Monitor, "Divers help to remove abandoned, destructive 'ghost' nets," 8 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The road is a little barren, but a hotel is being built and a large billboard featuring Matic was erected in time for the World Cup. James Montague, New York Times, "Leading Serbia at World Cup, Nemanja Matic Has One Foot Rooted at Home," 22 June 2018 Gardeners who don’t want new plants from seed or the stalks that are barren can simply cut them back to within the cluster of foliage. Tom Maccubbin,, "Prune blueberry bushes after fruiting," 23 June 2018 Areas most at risk of southern pine beetle infestation are pitch pine barrens, which are scattered around the Northeast including Long Island and Albany in New York and Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Washington Post, "Pine-killing southern beetle may be more deadly in North," 10 June 2018 The area became known as the pine barrens, a large wild area eventually preserved through the Pinelands National Reserve in 1978. Frank Kummer,, "These Pinelands explorers may be paddling their kayaks through your next glass of water," 20 Apr. 2018 The sanctuary consists of 1,700 acres of open water, tidal freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, upland and riparian forest, creeks, meadows, pine and sand barrens, and fields along the Patuxent River. Janene Holzberg,, "Jug Bay set to unveil trails, Nature Discovery Place at new Waysons Corner preserve," 4 July 2018 New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has cut 18,000 trees in Long Island’s central pine barrens since an infestation was found there four years ago. Washington Post, "Pine-killing southern beetle may be more deadly in North," 10 June 2018 Efforts are underway to quell a large outbreak in Long Island’s pine barrens and monitoring traps have caught beetles as far north as New England. Washington Post, "Pine-killing southern beetle may be more deadly in North," 10 June 2018 The club is backed by a wealthy benefactor now, have plans to move into a new world-class stadium on Liverpool's waterfront in the near future and want to end their 23-year barren spell without silverware., "FanView: Latest Allardyce 'Consolidation' Comments Could Be Final Nail in Everton Boss' Coffin," 4 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of barren


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1651, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for barren


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


noun derivative of barren entry 1

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Phrases Related to barren

barren of

Statistics for barren

Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for barren

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

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More Definitions for barren



English Language Learners Definition of barren

: having very few plants : not suitable for plants

: not producing fruit or not able to produce fruit

of a woman or female animal : not able to produce children or offspring


bar·ren | \ˈber-ən \

Kids Definition of barren

1 : unable to produce seed, fruit, or young barren plants

2 : growing only poor or few plants barren soil


bar·ren | \ˈbar-ən \

Medical Definition of barren 

: incapable of producing offspring used especially of females or matings

Other Words from barren

barrenness \-ən-nəs \ noun

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Comments on barren

What made you want to look up barren? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not any or not one

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