Definitions

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

  • adj. Not producing offspring.
  • adj. Incapable of producing offspring.
  • adj. Lacking vegetation, especially useful vegetation.
  • adj. Unproductive of results or gains; unprofitable: barren efforts. See Synonyms at futile.
  • adj. Devoid of something specified: writing barren of insight. See Synonyms at empty.
  • adj. Lacking in liveliness or interest.
  • n. A tract of unproductive land, often with a scrubby growth of trees. Often used in the plural.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Incapable of producing offspring; producing no young; sterile; -- said of women and female animals.
  • adj. Not producing vegetation, or useful vegetation; sterile.
  • adj. Unproductive; fruitless; unprofitable; empty.
  • adj. Mentally dull; stupid.
  • n. A tract of barren land.
  • n. Elevated lands or plains on which grow small trees, but not timber. They are not necessarily sterile, and are often fertile.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • 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.
  • n. A tract or region of more or less unproductive land, partly or entirely treeless.
  • To render barren or unproductive.

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

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

Etymologies

Middle English barreine, from Old French brahaigne, perhaps of Germanic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French baraigne ("sterile, barren"). (Wiktionary)

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.

    Foraging Killbots Will Be Strictly Vegetarian, Company Assures « 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Our Club calendar of events is normally barren from the end of April to the beginning of October, but the summer of '73 has been exceedingly fruitful in that this is the third special meeting, all involving guest speakers of international prominence.

    The Aims and Responsibilities of German Foreign Policy

  • Dreary little houses, with chimneys built outside, with clay and rough sticks piled crosswise, as we used to build cob towers, stood in barren looking fields, with cow, pig, or mule lounging about the door.

    Hospital Sketches

  • Gate, and the Crushing Mills at the North End of Silver City in barren wastes apparently unfit for cultivation and the subsistence of

    The Washoe Mining Region

Comments

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  • 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

  • BARrEn

    April 26, 2008

  • At this barren enterprise
    Rat-shrewd go her squint eyes

    from "Two Sisters of Persephone," Sylvia Plath

    April 14, 2008

  • 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

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

    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

  • To be without child.

    November 7, 2007