bar·​ren | \ ˈber-ən How to pronounce barren (audio) , 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 How to pronounce barren (audio) , 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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Flight 93 went down on the barren site of an old strip mine, where generations of laborers had extracted bituminous coal. Paige Williams, The New Yorker, 10 Sep. 2021 The carbon capturing plant, perched on a barren lava plateau in southwest Iceland, is the biggest of its kind, its builder says, increasing global capacity for the technology by more than 40%. Michael Birnbaum, Anchorage Daily News, 10 Sep. 2021 Pundits say the two-thirds of our USA GDP is related to consumer spending, but what if our retail shelves were barren in Q4 and beyond? Rick Helfenbein, Forbes, 9 Sep. 2021 Like Mathis, many San Antonians of a certain age still remember when Wonderland first lit up in a relatively barren Northwest Side around Fredericksburg Road and Loop 410. René A. Guzman, San Antonio Express-News, 9 Sep. 2021 For our interview, Rist and I sit in a barren gallery at the Geffen that is being employed as a staging area for her show. Los Angeles Times, 6 Sep. 2021 Among the film’s many vivid images, it’s the glaring violet of her winter jacket that lingers, or the plasticky jewel tone of a rearview mirror ornament, dangling before a barren road to nowhere. Guy Lodge, Variety, 2 Sep. 2021 With her teenage daughter calling out directions, Ms. Jones drove along a barren stretch of oil tanks in the Mott Haven neighborhood, the sun pounding down on her car. New York Times, 20 Aug. 2021 Sessions agreed to plant 100 trees per year within the mostly barren park. San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Spots left barren of vegetation by the rash of wildfires throughout the West are especially prone to flash flooding when pelted by heavy rainfall. Noah Berger, USA TODAY, 5 Aug. 2021 To a follower of a title-barren team like the Seattle Mariners, the crushing disappointment of a club with 27 World Series championships feels more than a little rich. Jason Gay, WSJ, 26 Aug. 2021 The rains may help contain some wildfires, but areas already burned through or barren from severe drought are especially prone to flooding. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 2 Aug. 2021 Spots left barren of vegetation by the rash of wildfires throughout the West are especially prone to flash flooding when pelted by heavy rainfall. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, 1 Aug. 2021 Lewis Hamilton’s 101st pole position in Formula One snapped a six-race barren run and set him up perfectly for a shot at a 100th career win in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday in Budapest., 1 Aug. 2021 Grubhub allegedly overcharged restaurants for its delivery services as the flailing eatery industry struggled to survive a business landscape made barren by COVID-19, according to a lawsuit by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Khristopher J. Brooks, CBS News, 29 July 2021 Huge swaths of the Utah lake look more like Death Valley than any waterway, the ground barren and fractured from dry heat. Lucy Kafanov, CNN, 17 July 2021 The normally bustling, chaotic streets were barren of life. New York Times, 13 July 2021

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 Celtic origin; akin to Middle Welsh brynar fallow land


noun derivative of barren entry 1

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Time Traveler for barren

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near barren



barren brome grass

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Last Updated

19 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Barren.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

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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
: not able to produce children or offspring : infertile


bar·​ren | \ ˈber-ən How to pronounce barren (audio) \

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 How to pronounce barren (audio) \

Medical Definition of barren

: incapable of producing offspring used especially of females or matings

Other Words from barren

barrenness \ -​ən-​nəs How to pronounce barren (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on barren

Nglish: Translation of barren for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of barren for Arabic Speakers


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