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not producing or incapable of producing offspring; sterile:
a barren woman.
unproductive; unfruitful:
barren land.
without capacity to interest or attract:
a barren period in American architecture.
mentally unproductive; dull; stupid.
not producing results; fruitless:
a barren effort.
destitute; bereft; lacking (usually followed by of):
barren of tender feelings.
Usually, barrens. level or slightly rolling land, usually with a sandy soil and few trees, and relatively infertile.
Contemporary Examples

Now the leather-clad backup dancers join her on a white platform for some floor choreography in the middle of said barren desert.
Britney Spears’s ‘Work Bitch’ Music Video Is Flawless, Classic Britney Kevin Fallon October 1, 2013

We saw a barren landscape, cloaked women in burqas, and very limited commerce during our first visit to Kabul in early 2003.
Don’t Forget Afghan Women Paula Dobriansky, Karen Hughes April 9, 2011

Without it in the atmosphere, the Earth would be a barren, frozen wasteland.
Extreme Weather? Blame the End Times Jay Michaelson November 27, 2014

In this barren landscape, New Jersey and Virginia—which hold gubernatorial elections next week—represent a kind of oasis.
Why the Democrats Should Lose Peter Beinart October 29, 2009

They’d assume I had been radicalized by my grief and the fact I was barren and could not have children.
How The Media Chose Its Boston ‘Suspects’ Maysoon Zayid April 21, 2013

Historical Examples

The ridge where Roger now found himself was high and barren.
The Forbidden Trail Honor Willsie

They are barren, till the imagination has tenanted them with possibilities of danger and dismay.
Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground.
Familiar Quotations John Bartlett

But she did not allow herself to fall into the idleness of barren speculation.
The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad

Here were no barren hill-crests with a hundred weatherworn facets.
The Heart of Unaga Ridgwell Cullum

incapable of producing offspring, seed, or fruit; sterile: a barren tree
unable to support the growth of crops, etc; unproductive; bare: barren land
lacking in stimulation or ideas; dull: a rather barren play
not producing worthwhile results; unprofitable: a barren period in a writer’s life
(foll by of) totally lacking (in); devoid (of): his speech was barren of wit
(of rock strata) having no fossils

c.1200, from Old French baraigne, baraing “sterile, barren” (12c.), perhaps originally brahain, of obscure derivation, perhaps from a Germanic language. In England, originally used of women, of land in France. Of land in English from late 14c. As a noun, mid-13c., “a barren woman;” later of land.

BARRENS. Elevated lands, or plains upon which grow small trees, but never timber. [Bartlett, “Dictionary of Americanisms,” 1848]

barren bar·ren (bār’ən)

Not producing offspring.

Incapable of producing offspring.

For a woman to be barren was accounted a severe punishment among the Jews (Gen. 16:2; 30:1-23; 1 Sam. 1:6, 27; Isa. 47:9; 49:21; Luke 1:25). Instances of barrenness are noticed (Gen. 11:30; 25:21; 29:31; Judg. 13:2, 3; Luke 1:7, 36).


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    a sparsely inhabited region of tundra in N Canada, especially in the area W of Hudson Bay. Historical Examples Beyond that, to the east and north, lie the primitive rocks of the Barren Grounds, into which the buffaloes never stray. The Young Voyageurs Mayne Reid Among other creatures that remain all winter upon the Barren […]

  • Barren ground caribou

    a migrating caribou of the North American tundra and taiga, having many-branched slender antlers. Historical Examples The corresponding parasite of the barren ground caribou is a similar or perhaps identical species, with a parallel life history. The Barren Ground Caribou of Keewatin Francis Harper Among hunters and sportsmen, two divisions have long been known, namely, […]

  • Barren land

    a sparsely inhabited region of tundra in N Canada, especially in the area W of Hudson Bay. Historical Examples Suddenly he finds himself transported into a bleak and barren land where the shades flit to and fro. The Visions of the Sleeping Bard Ellis Wynne This part of the island is the most barren land […]

  • Barren strawberry

    a low-growing plant, Waldsteinia fragarioides, of the rose family, native to north temperate regions, having long stalks with three toothed leaflets and yellow flowers. Historical Examples Dog-violets, barren strawberry, and the yellowish-green spurge are in flower there now. The Hills and the Vale Richard Jefferies One tiny white flower of barren strawberry has ventured to […]

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