Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Not producing or incapable of producing offspring. Used of female animals.
  • adjective Often Offensive Not producing or incapable of producing offspring. Used of women.
  • adjective Not producing or incapable of producing fruit.
  • adjective Lacking vegetation, especially useful vegetation.
  • adjective Unproductive of results or gains; unprofitable: synonym: futile.
  • adjective Devoid of something specified.
  • adjective Lacking in liveliness or interest.
  • noun A tract of unproductive land, often with a scrubby growth of trees.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To render barren or unproductive.
  • Incapable of producing or that does not produce its kind: applied to animals and plants.
  • In particular— Sterile; castrated: said of male animals.
  • Without fruit or seed: said of trees or plants.
  • Bearing no children; childless; without issue: said of a woman.
  • Not bearing or pregnant at the usual season: said of female animals: as, barren heifers.
  • Producing little or no vegetation; unproductive; unfruitful; sterile: applied to land.
  • In mining, unproductive; unprofitable: applied to rocks.
  • Void of vital germs.
  • Mentally unproductive; unresponsive; dull; stupid.
  • Devoid; lacking; wanting: with of: as, a hill barren of trees; a mind barren of ideas.
  • Not producing or leading to anything; profitless; fruitless: as, barren tears; a barren attachment.
  • Destitute of interest or attraction; unsuggestive; uninstructive; bald; bare: as, a barren list of names.
  • noun A tract or region of more or less unproductive land, partly or entirely treeless.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A tract of barren land.
  • noun American Elevated lands or plains on which grow small trees, but not timber. They are not necessarily sterile, and are often fertile.
  • adjective Incapable of producing offspring; producing no young; sterile; -- said of women and female animals.
  • adjective Not producing vegetation, or useful vegetation; sterile.
  • adjective Unproductive; fruitless; unprofitable; empty.
  • adjective Mentally dull; stupid.
  • adjective a flower which has only stamens without a pistil, or which has neither stamens nor pistils.
  • adjective (Geog.) a vast tract in British America northward of the forest regions.
  • adjective (Zoöl.) a peculiar bear, inhabiting the Barren Grounds, now believed to be a variety of the brown bear of Europe.
  • adjective (Zoöl.) a small reindeer (Rangifer Grœnlandicus) peculiar to the Barren Grounds and Greenland.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective not comparable unable to bear children; sterile
  • adjective of poor fertility, infertile
  • adjective bleak
  • adjective not productive
  • noun An area of low fertility and habitation, a desolate place.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective completely wanting or lacking
  • adjective not bearing offspring
  • noun an uninhabited wilderness that is worthless for cultivation
  • adjective providing no shelter or sustenance

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English barreine, from Old French brahaigne, perhaps of Germanic origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French baraigne ("sterile, barren").

Examples

  • That is, _such barren plants_ are exhibited in the creation, to make us _thankful when we have more taste and feeling than he, of those parts_ or qualities _which_ produce fruit _in us_, and preserve as from being likewise _barren plants_.

    Notes to Shakespeare — Volume 01: Comedies

  • But Strabo only speaks of the neighborhood of Jerusalem, which he calls barren and arid to the extent of sixty stadia round the city: in other parts he gives a favorable testimony to the fertility of many parts of Palestine: thus he says, "Near Jericho there is a grove of palms, and a country of a hundred stadia, full of springs, and well peopled."

    History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — Volume 1

  • Given that recent US wars have been fought in barren deserts and urban cityspaces, it seems difficult to imagine that the robots will find plentiful plant matter to consume.

    Antiwar.com Blog

  • This influx revitalized the Scottish Highlands: glens that had lain barren save eagles and rutting stags since the Highland Clearances of the 1780s rang once again with human activity.

    The Season: Scotland | Edwardian Promenade

  • Given that recent US wars have been fought in barren deserts and urban cityspaces, it seems difficult to imagine that the robots will find plentiful plant matter to consume.

    Foraging Killbots Will Be Strictly Vegetarian, Company Assures « Antiwar.com Blog

  • EL ALTO, Bolivia — Tattered dummies look down on this city from street poles in barren squares, like scarecrows for anyone with bad intentions.

    The Wind From The South

  • EL ALTO, Bolivia — Tattered dummies look down on this city from street poles in barren squares, like scarecrows for anyone with bad intentions.

    VDARE.com: Blog Articles » Print » The Wind From The South

  • EL ALTO, Bolivia — Tattered dummies look down on this city from street poles in barren squares, like scarecrows for anyone with bad intentions.

    Steve Sailer Rule Of Theories–Davos Edition

  • In tree belts, such shelters are constructed of decomposing leaf litter and other organic debris; in barren, polar regions, they are madeof snow.

    Seven Primitive Survival Shelters That Could Save Your Life

  • The 33-year-old pilot from Ohio would spend the next four years, 10 months and nine days in barren, dank cells with little more than two blankets and a tin cup to hold water.

    Norrington, Giles R.

Comments

New comments are temporarily disabled while we update our database.

  • To be without child.

    November 7, 2007

  • I don't think it actually means without child in that sense. The normal sense is unable to conceive children, and in this case, the woman was deliberately barren, that is, deliberately not conceiving.

    November 7, 2007

  • I was just providing it as an example of a very poor choice of words.

    November 7, 2007

  • Poor choice of words indeed, for the story in question.

    The word barren always reminds me of "Die Frau ohne Schatten", an opera entirely devoted to the subject of barrenness (well, OK there's all that mythic, symbolic stuff with the renunciation and redemption at the end too, I suppose).

    November 7, 2007

  • I wouldn't say poor choice of words, I would say cruel. The usage is ironic, which is normally a good thing, but in this case, the words were being used for evil.

    November 8, 2007

  • At this barren enterprise

    Rat-shrewd go her squint eyes

    from "Two Sisters of Persephone," Sylvia Plath

    April 14, 2008

  • BARrEn

    April 26, 2008

  • I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,

    the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,

    I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

    and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,

    hunting for you, for your hot heart,

    like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

    - Pablo Neruda, 'I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair'.

    August 19, 2009