plural noun
a barren area in which soft rock strata are eroded into varied, fantastic forms.

1850–55, Americanism; bad1 + land + -s3; translation of French mauvaises terres, perhaps based on expressions in AmerInd languages, alluding to the difficulty in traversing such country Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
badlands (ˈbædˌlændz)
pl n
any deeply eroded barren area

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"arid, highly eroded regions of the western U.S.," 1852, from bad + land. Applied to urban districts of crime and vice since 1892 (originally with ref. to Chicago).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


area cut and eroded by many deep, tortuous gullies with intervening saw-toothed divides. The gullies extend from main rivers back to tablelands about 150 m (500 feet) and higher. The gully bottoms increase in gradient from almost flat near the main rivers to nearly vertical at the edges of the tablelands. Because the rocks are not uniform in character, differences in erosion result in stair-step profiles. The joining and separating of the gullies cause many isolated irregular spires, small flat-topped buttes, or mesas, and produce a landscape of jagged, fluted, and seemingly inaccessible hills

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Think constellations, fall's cool evening air, and moonrises over the badlands.
And yet around the world the country is thought of as if it consisted only of
  the badlands.
It's a stretch of the imagination, but the arid badlands that reach toward the
  horizon once were verdant wetlands.
Badlands has beginner hills for youngsters and large slopes for the more daring.
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