Definition of barren in English:



  • 1(of land) too poor to produce much or any vegetation.

    ‘the plains of Kyrenia were barren’
    ‘the barren, burnt-up countryside’
    • ‘For several moments, the group could only gape at the fierce, stark beauty of the arid desert landscape, the awesome power and majesty of the barren land.’
    • ‘I hope I dissolve in it, consumed by the richness of all that could have been in this barren land marked by the distant and deep scars of many a past harsh summer…’
    • ‘And in front of the mountains was a barren land covered in only sand and stone with the waves crashing against the shoreline.’
    • ‘Now, of course their are material resources to be had in Gaul, and this provides a reason for conquest - for who wants to conquer a barren land?’
    • ‘If one or two caribou were taken, the group would share the harvest together and then travel even farther into the barren lands.’
    • ‘Ahead is a barren land of lochans and beautifully-ridged mountains rising steeply from an uninhabited wilderness.’
    • ‘Farmers cannot afford these higher costs and consequently many paddy fields have not been cultivated for lengthy periods and have become barren lands.’
    • ‘I walked along the barren lands as the sun parched my skin.’
    • ‘What is immediately striking is the lushness of these high pastures - such a contrast to the common perception of Ethiopia as a barren land.’
    • ‘An elephant, tired after searching for water, lies in writhing pain on a barren land.’
    • ‘Then a village elder told the group that what Alwar really needed were people to pitch in with shovels and make ponds that could trap water in the barren land.’
    • ‘Several farmers tried in vain to till the barren land.’
    • ‘Men had to be relocated in single sex hostels whilst women were left to eke out an existence for themselves and their children on barren lands.’
    • ‘It was there that he saw how extensively elephant dung was used as agricultural fertilizer to nourish the otherwise barren land.’
    • ‘Will it be again blamed when there would be severe environmental disaster after watercourse of river Brahmaputra will be diverted to irrigate Indian barren land?’
    • ‘The leased land was mostly barren, there were only nine golf holes laid out, and the clubhouse was a converted farmhouse lit by kerosene lamps.’
    • ‘The rest of Iceland is agricultural, rural, or wild - 80% of its barren land is unpopulated.’
    • ‘The mere sound of the word ‘monsoon’ conjures up magical images of heavy rain rejuvenating and reviving a starved, parched and barren land.’
    • ‘Today, they are still extracting revenge and blood from a barren land that has been sucked dry by a despotic ruling class and its natural allies in Washington and Paris.’
    • ‘Most of the land is flat, barren tundra where only the top few inches of the frozen earth thaw out during the summer months.’
    unproductive, infertile, unfruitful, sterile, arid, desert, waste, desolate, uncultivatable
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1(of a tree or plant) not producing fruit or seed.
      ‘the barren fig tree’
      • ‘A barren fig tree takes up valuable garden space and nutrients that fruitful trees can use.’
      • ‘Alex looked up from the barren flower bed and noticed a woman standing by the forest waving her arms and calling out to him.’
      • ‘The ground is frozen, the trees barren and the wind raw, and our thoughts have turned to cycling.’
      • ‘We begrudge the colder weather, the barren trees, the short days.’
      • ‘The sidewalks were shaded by huge, hovering oak trees that looked barren in the cool weather.’
      • ‘Figgy pudding is sometimes eaten on Palm Sunday, possibly in memory of Christ's cursing of the barren fig tree on that day.’
      • ‘The barren trees looked on branches swaying in the breeze, unwilling to quite succumb to the cold but looking forward to their sleep.’
      • ‘As a photographer, Ziegler is mostly concerned with capturing human emotion, a story a rusty silo or barren tree can't tell.’
      • ‘Rats and toads were also natural enemies of bees, while barren flowers were a disaster.’
      • ‘This image quickly gave way to a barren and desolate tree, with whistling wind in the soundscape.’
      • ‘She stretched as much as she was able and the sun embraced her completely, as much as it was able, diffused by the ugly architecture and the barren trees.’
      • ‘The barren trees were in tune with the sense of desolation all around.’
      • ‘Catriona Boyle and Joanna Kerr give advice on a plague of wild garlic and barren fruit trees.’
      • ‘To sharpen our vision, Jesus tells a parable about an orchard owner who was frustrated by a barren fig tree and ordered the gardener to cut the tree down.’
      • ‘Cherry and pear trees laden with fruit can become barren overnight when jackdaws decide to strike.’
      • ‘Yet Weil thought so poorly of her achievements she once identified herself with the barren fig tree Jesus cursed because it bore no fruit.’
      • ‘No lusty bud nor curling tendril burst from the barren vine.’
      • ‘Peeking through a few barren trees and sitting atop a well-manicured lawn sat Keaton's parent's house.’
      • ‘The trees are barren and it is a time when the birds are likely to be most vocal, just before mating season.’
    2. 1.2Showing no results or achievements; unproductive.
      ‘he scored yesterday to end his barren spell’
      • ‘The Premier County ended their very barren spell in the 21st minute when their full forward Des Lyons kicked over a good point.’
      • ‘A fierce competitor whose feistiness has often boiled into rage, the captain, in the absence of Stefan Klos, says the fact this final comes on the back of a barren season means losing is not an option.’
      • ‘The 40-year-old's Singapore success ends a barren spell for the Ryder Cup star.’
      • ‘Many factors have been blamed for the barren spell, the most obvious being the regional politics that blight their domestic game.’
      • ‘Caley took advantage in terms of possession but their barren spell in front of goal before this one continued.’
      • ‘After something of a barren spell, Summerhill College's golfers are back on top of the provincial mountain.’
      • ‘Us ending a barren spell at the weekend and Farsley losing will have no bearing on this match.’
      • ‘Teams and drivers sometimes go through a barren spell and, when success fails to come your way, it can lead you to doubt.’
      • ‘All six played a part, in helping the county end a barren nine-year spell without Liam McCarthy.’
      • ‘Time often blurs memories but I can't recall many times when Rush endured a barren spell.’
      • ‘Vassell has recently returned to form after a barren spell with Aston Villa, while Alan Smith, for this writer at least, has failed to hit the heights of the past in an admittedly abject Leeds side.’
      • ‘Since then though Rangers have endeared a barren spell and the pressure has been building on McLeish as O'Neill has transformed Celtic into one of the best teams in Europe.’
      • ‘Since Lawrie Sanchez got off the mark in his very first game with, not a win, but a goal to end the barren spell, things have picked up.’
      • ‘The former Liverpool striker has had a torrid time in front of goal recently but he put his barren spell firmly behind him with what turned out to be the winner at St James' Park.’
      • ‘Bolton's recent run of form has come despite a barren spell from Ricketts that has seen him go goalless since January 16.’
      • ‘There then followed a long barren spell with Castlecomer frequently on the attack but their wayward shooting failed them at the final kick.’
      • ‘The fact that Portsmouth and Wolves returned after similarly barren years no doubt gives them hope.’
      • ‘It totally made my day and I guess my barren spell was well worth the wait in the end!’
      • ‘In 35 majors he has won eight times - and he arrives at Troon hoping to end a relatively barren spell.’
      • ‘Moore's next task is to end a three-month barren spell dating back to his last goal, against Stoke City in September's 2-2 Turf Moor draw.’
      unproductive, unfruitful, unprofitable, unremunerative, arid
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3archaic (of a woman) infertile.
      • ‘Many too have heard of his marriage to the barren Princess Louise von Stolberg, who bore him no children, blatantly committed adultery and finally separated from him.’
      • ‘By contrast the prehistoric stones have been seen as male symbols of fertility with the power to impregnate barren women.’
      • ‘Even if they loved each other very much, a man would be forced to divorce a barren wife due to the pressure from his own family.’
      • ‘One night a heavenly spirit appeared before the barren woman and told her that she would soon give birth to a son.’
      • ‘In Act Two the barren Lady Kix, lamenting her childless and unfruitful state, is overhead by Touchwood Senior.’
      infertile, sterile, childless
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4(of a female animal) not pregnant or unable to become so.
      • ‘Because the reindeer females in this study were barren, changes in body mass showed the changes in body condition well.’
      • ‘It concentrates the mind when you are block calving because you sell all your barren cows in one go.’
      • ‘Samren moved his eyes from the barren fox to his son, Caspar.’
      • ‘Disturbing ewes or sudden changes in diet can cause embryo losses, the result is lower litter sizes and barren ewes.’
      • ‘Pregnancy testing is done early and regularly to pull out barren cows.’
  • 2(of a place or building) bleak and lifeless.

    ‘the sports hall turned out to be a rather barren concrete building’
    ‘the flat feels too tidy, almost barren’
    • ‘The white of the barren room was a stark contrast to the blackness of the hole, up through which drifted faint scuffling sounds.’
    • ‘I recognized the view of Abalone Mountain and Castle Rock from that barren site.’
    • ‘The morning sun appeared above the Afghan village, the rays of golden light reaching out across the bleak and barren landscape.’
    • ‘He wanted it to bust out the front of his face, eat his whole body, rend him limb from limb and toss the severed remains of his body to the four winds of that bleak and barren place.’
    • ‘Battles took place anywhere from a street in a city to a barren field.’
    • ‘Often times, the landscapes are bleak in the grayish washed out world of factories or barren landscapes of the indigenous lifeforms.’
    • ‘Very poignant - especially with families and tiny children cycling up the barren street…’
    • ‘They wanted to leave this barren place as soon as they could.’
    • ‘The place was barren and bleak, and as far as she could see it was devoid of any inhabitants.’
    • ‘What had promised to be a cozy stop for the night proved to be a wide, barren space with a few buildings forming a ring around the well and only a few unwelcoming people to populate it.’
    • ‘The funeral had taken all morning and thousands of angry mourners still milled around the barren cemetery in Gaza.’
    • ‘When you're not talking, you'll undoubtedly be exploring the extremely barren environments within the game.’
    • ‘Deeper into the barren city the polished buildings turn to dirty, smudged, rock-like towers, looking as if they were carved roughly out of stone.’
    • ‘Obviously, he's hiding in the Spurs trophy room, a desperately barren place where no man ever goes.’
    • ‘He lives in a small fishing village on the coast of Iceland, a bleak, barren place with one or two buildings, a few fussy townsfolk, and a lot of snow and cold.’
    • ‘To the early British colonisers, Hong Kong was a barren place.’
    • ‘Without their kind the musical world would be an extremely barren place.’
    • ‘After a safe distance from the city I put the car on cruise control; the roads were barren and lifeless.’
    • ‘The world had become a barren place thanks to the bombing, devoid of anything similar to vegetation or existence, save for a few spots of land that had escaped the war.’
    • ‘When Allison Wright and Andy Kaplan purchased their Santa Monica home, the windows all along the side of their house faced a barren alley.’
    bleak, stark, bare, drab, desolate, dreary, dismal, gloomy, sombre, forlorn, grim, stern, harsh, forbidding, uninviting, unwelcoming, cheerless
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Empty of meaning or value.
      ‘your life will be barren’
      • ‘It opens up windows on our society, our selves, and our barren ideas.’
      • ‘It is enamored with pop, the perfect tool to convey the vain, dull, shallow and barren ideas of modernity.’
      • ‘No doubt there is a spiritual egoism, built on barren ideas concerning oneself with no real practice behind them, that one can easily fall into.’
      • ‘Your mission is to capture the essence of a scene, not the barren facts.’
      pointless, futile, worthless, profitless, valueless, unrewarding, purposeless, useless, vain, aimless
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2Devoid of.
      ‘the room was barren of furniture’
      • ‘Although the trees were barren of any flowers, there was something about the winter magic floating in the air that made the night so special.’
      • ‘As it stands, this site is barren of all such annoyances.’
      • ‘The Hill Country along South Mopac is remarkably barren of all-night food joints.’
      • ‘But both prefer the mirror to any sexual object, and both remain childless, barren of natural humanity.’
      • ‘We arrived to find more than a hundred years of unrestricted cattle grazing had left the arid canyon nearly barren of ground vegetation.’
      • ‘By contrast, the modern day village is bleak, cold and almost barren of young people who have moved to the cities in search of work and a better life.’
      • ‘Our cuticles are already as barren of microbial life as the underside of an arctic glacier.’
      • ‘We rode through farm country where fields stretched as far as I could see, but barren of the crops Willie and I used to see when we came South during the summertime.’
      • ‘Still, it was strange to see the school, empty and barren of all people.’
      • ‘The sediments of the Grensen Formation are barren of all organic material and hence must be dated using radiometric and petrographic evidence alone.’
      • ‘However, she was not barren of any color - her lips were colored a bright, glossy red.’
      • ‘All the time, labour, and money, bestowed by the Corporation during this period may be said to have been almost barren of beneficial results.’
      • ‘Revenge is a film barren of much development, as it feels like nothing more than a bunch of independent scenes cobbled together.’
      • ‘Selina pulled into the stadium parking lot, its asphalt turf barren of all vehicles except hers.’
      • ‘Wednesday morning looked a bit barren of good fringe meeting debates, so I made my selections with difficulty.’
      • ‘But everyone exploits its use, until that time certain when it becomes soiled and haggard, barren of its previous virtues.’
      • ‘I like it too, it's very nice even though it's basically barren of all furniture.’
      • ‘The Democrats purposely chose a candidate with a 22-year history in elective office entirely barren of any distinction.’
      • ‘Then the woods were gone entirely and only a few withered winter trees and boulders disrupted the now desert land - barren of all life and color.’
      • ‘Dark blood poured from the wounded and fallen unto the ruddy rust colored earth; barren of all vegetation and life.’
      lacking, without, free from, free of, empty of, vacant of, void of, bare of, barren of, bereft of, drained of, denuded of, deprived of, depleted of, destitute of, bankrupt of
      View synonyms


  • 1North American A barren tract or tracts of land.

    ‘the Newfoundland barrens’
    • ‘After exploring gentle mountain slopes, taiga flatland and highland barrens, we suddenly reached the plateau's edge.’
    • ‘They encompass 2,400 square miles of wooded mountains, high-elevation bogs and pine barrens, replete with winding rivers and spectacular waterfalls.’
    • ‘However, through the core of the barrens a headwind-driven flame reached a height of one to 1.5 meters and ascended some small shrubs, saplings, and standing-dead trees.’
    • ‘The prairie barrens occur on limestone with shallow clayey soils that are well-drained.’
    • ‘In Illinois, barrens occur throughout the state.’
    • ‘The area, recognized as a dry-mesic barrens on the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, was dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve in February of 2000.’
    • ‘Fire suppression, development and conversion of land to agricultural use have destroyed many of the pine barrens and oak savannas where the lupine grows.’
    • ‘He thought of the bliss the two kids had, him and Unico, as they raced across the barrens plains, past the sign, and darting through the stone forest.’
    • ‘I find the ecological barrens of the Euro-countryside to be depressing.’
    • ‘Dry barrens offer an exceptional opportunity to examine fire effects on community structure, composition, and diversity patterns in savannalike natural communities.’
    • ‘It has many similarities to the Blackbelt prairies and the barrens of Tennessee and Kentucky.’
    • ‘Also, the hard winds across the barren spare the tight-pressed herds the worst of the mosquito hordes and biting flies.’
    • ‘Quite unlike today's northern barrens, it combined Arctic tundra with fertile loess soil and low latitudes the Eurasian tundra belt having been pushed far to the south by the Scandinavian icecap.’
    • ‘Galloping through the tall trees in forest woodlands or winding our way slowly over miles of alien, stony-gray barrens, we came to know a place apart from our comfort zones.’
    • ‘Data are needed on the effects of repeated applications of prescribed fires over several years to assess the effectiveness of prescribed fires as a restoration tool in barrens.’
    • ‘Rolling hills, jagged rock barrens, steaming swamps, and dusty grey ashlands all appear crisp and clean to the eye and have an amazing amount of variety.’
    • ‘This species, typical of mesic to dry-mesic upland forests, has wind-dispersed seeds and evidently readily invades barrens.’
    • ‘The other is a mosaic of sand barrens and woodland and in this case, poor soil has probably slowed succession.’
    • ‘I have to make some more somehow, I have to go even further out into the barrens to find things to talk about.’
    • ‘Serpentinite barrens are visible on both sides of the Staten Island Expressway where bedrock was exposed when new roads were cut during the mid-1960s.’
  • 2rare A group or drove of mules.

    ‘the Greeks were seen to drive a barren of mules’


Middle English: from Old French barhaine, of unknown origin.