Etymology
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badlands (n.)

"arid, highly eroded regions of the upper midwestern U.S.," 1850, from bad (adj.) + land (n.). Translating French Canadian Mauvaises Terres, a trapper's word, in reference to the difficulty of traversing them. Applied to urban districts of crime and vice since 1892 (originally with reference to Chicago).

updated on March 20, 2017

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Definitions of badlands from WordNet
1
badlands (n.)
deeply eroded barren land;
2
Badlands (n.)
an eroded and barren region in southwestern South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska;
Synonyms: Bad Lands
Etymologies are not definitions. From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.