Etymology
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karst (n.)
name of a high, barren limestone region around Trieste; used by geologists from 1894 to refer to similar landforms. The word is the German form of Slovenian Kras, which might be related to words in Slavic meaning "red."
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desert (adj.)

mid-13c., "deserted, uncultivated, waste, barren, unproductive," from Old French desert and Latin desertum (see desert (n.1)). Meaning "pertaining to or belonging to a desert" is from 1630s. Desert island, one that is uninhabited, is from c. 1600. 

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infelicity (n.)
late 14c., "unhappiness," from Latin infelicitas "bad luck, misfortune, unhappiness," from infelix (genitive infelicis) "unfruitful, barren; unfortunate, unhappy; causing misfortune, unlucky," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + felix "happy" (see felicity). Meaning "inappropriateness, unhappiness as to occasion" is from 1610s.
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sorrel (adj.)
"reddish brown," especially of horses, mid-14c., from Old French sorel, from sor "yellowish-brown," probably from Frankish *saur "dry," or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *sauza- (source also of Middle Dutch soor "dry," Old High German soren "to become dry," Old English sear "withered, barren;" see sere). Perhaps a diminutive form in French.
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sere (adj.)

Middle English sere, "dried up, withered, barren" (of plants, etc.), from Old English sear, from Proto-Germanic *sauzas (source also of Middle Low German sor, Dutch zoor "dry"), from PIE root *saus- "dry" (source also of Sanskrit susyati "dries, withers;" Old Persian uška- "dry" (adj.), "land" (n.); Avestan huška- "dry;" Greek auos "dry," auein "to dry;" Latin sudus "dry"). Related to sear. Figurative use from 1530s. Sere month was an old name for "August."

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lawn (n.1)
"turf, stretch of grass," 1540s, laune "glade, open space in a forest or between woods," from Middle English launde (c. 1300), from Old French lande "heath, moor, barren land; clearing" (12c.), from Gaulish (compare Breton lann "heath"), or from a cognate Germanic word, from Proto-Germanic *landam-, source of English land (n.). The -d perhaps was mistaken for an affix and dropped. Sense of "grassy ground kept mowed" first recorded 1733. Lawn-tennis is from 1884.
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jejune (adj.)

1610s, "dull in the mind, flat, insipid, wanting in interest," from Latin ieiunus "empty, dry, barren," literally "fasting, hungry," a word of obscure origin. De Vaan finds it to be from a PIE root meaning "to worship, reverence," hence "to sacrifice" (with cognates including Sanskrit yajati "to honor, worship, sacrifice," Avestan yaza- "to worship," Greek agios, agnos "holy;" see hagio-), and writes that the Latin word and its relatives "would be based on the habit to perform the first sacrifice of the day on an empty stomach." Related: jejunal; jejunally.

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steady (adj.)
1520s, "firmly fixed in place or station" (replacing earlier steadfast), from stead + adjectival suffix -y (2), perhaps on model of Middle Dutch, Middle Low German stadig. Old English had stæððig "grave, serious," and stedig "barren," but neither seems to be the direct source of the modern word. Old Norse cognate stoðugr "steady, stable" was closer in sense. As an adverb from c. 1600.

Originally of things; of persons or minds from c. 1600. Meaning "working at an even rate" is first recorded in 1540s. Steady progress is etymologically a contradiction in terms. Steady state first attested 1885; as a cosmological theory (propounded by Bondi, Gold, and Hoyle), it is attested from 1948. Related: Steadily.
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bleak (adj.)

c. 1300, bleik, "pale, pallid," from Old Norse bleikr "pale, whitish, blond," from Proto-Germanic *blaika- "shining, white" (source also of Old Saxon blek "pale, shining," Dutch bleek, Old High German bleih, German bleich), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white."

The original English sense is obsolete; the meaning "bare, windswept" is from 1530s; figurative sense of "cheerless" is from c. 1719. The same Germanic root produced Middle English blake "pale" (Old English blac), but this fell from use, probably from confusion with blæc "black" (the surname Blake can mean either "one of pale complexion" or "one of dark complexion"). Bleak has survived, not in the "pale" sense, but meaning only "bare, barren." Related: Bleakly; bleakness.

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hardscrabble (n.)
in popular use from c. 1826 as a U.S. colloquial name for any barren or impoverished place "where a livelihood may be obtained only under great hardship and difficulty" [OED]; from hard (adj.) + noun from scrabble (v.). Noted in 1813 as a place-name in New York state; first recorded in journals of Lewis and Clark (1804) as the name of a prairie. Perhaps the original notion was "vigorous effort made under great stress," though this sense is recorded slightly later (1812). As an adjective by 1845.
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