barley Hordeum vulgare, the oldest cultivated cereal in the Near East and Europe (and possibly anywhere, for it may have come before cultivation of rice in the Far East). In the ancient world it was for long the most important food grain; but it is now used primarily for animal fodder, secondly for making malt for beer and other products, and only thirdly as a food grain.
The name barley derives from the Old English bære, which survives in Scotland as bere (see bere meal) without the suffix ‘ly’ which was originally given to turn it into an adjective (meaning ‘of barley’). The largest producers of barley today are France, Germany, Russia, and the Ukraine. It is a grain well suited to the climate of E. Europe.