a. Not producing or incapable of producing offspring. Used of female animals.
b. Often Offensive Not producing or incapable of producing offspring. Used of women.
2. Not producing or incapable of producing fruit: barren trees.
3. Lacking vegetation, especially useful vegetation: barren tundra.
4. Unproductive of results or gains; unprofitable: "That icy winter silence—how it froze you from your bride, / Tho' I made one barren effort to break it at the last!" (Alfred Lord Tennyson). See Synonyms at futile.
5. Devoid of something specified: writing barren of insight.
6. Lacking in liveliness or interest: a barren routine.
often barrens A tract of unproductive land, often with a scrubby growth of trees.
[Middle English barreine, from Old French brahaigne, perhaps of Germanic origin.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.