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Sterile vs Barren vs Impotent vs Unfruitful vs Infertile

Sterile, barrenimpotentunfruitfulinfertile mean not having or not manifesting the power to produce offspring or to bear literal or figurative fruit.

Sterile, opposed to fertile , in its basic application to living things implies an inability to reproduce.

But sterile is widely extendible to things that might reasonably be expected to be fruitful but that in fact are not so; thus, poor worthless land in which plants will not grow is described as sterile ; minds deficient in ideas are sterile ; funds left in a safe-deposit box and drawing no interest are sterile; whatever offers no return (as of pleasure, profit, value, or use) is sterile .

Barren (see also BARE 1 ) applies especially to a female who has borne no offspring or who is or is believed to be incapable of bearing any.

In extended use the term can imply a lack of return or profit.

Impotent (see also POWERLESS ) applies to the male and implies a lack of the ability to copulate and a corresponding inability to reproduce his kind.

Only rarely is the term in this sense used of other than the male animal, and in such use it approaches the aspect of impotent discriminated at powerless .

Unfruitful is sometimes used in place of barren not only as applied to the female but as applied to land, vegetation, or efforts which bear no fruit.

Infertile is often interchanged with sterile , but it is as likely to imply deficiency as absence of fertility and is appropriately used when a relative rather than an absolute sterility is to be implied.