\ ˈchərn How to pronounce churn (audio) \
plural churns

Definition of churn

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a container in which cream is stirred or shaken to make butter
2 : a regular, quantifiable process or rate of change that occurs in a business over a period of time as existing customers are lost and new customers are added The biggest problem they face is churn. Wireless providers lose an average of about 30% of their customers a year to competitors.— Brian O'Reilly also : a similar process or rate of change involving loss and addition of employees, companies, etc. The resulting employment churn—the average job tenure is now two years, and today's typical 32-year-old has held nine different jobs—means more risks as well as more opportunities to discover new paths. — Jamais Cascio


churned; churning; churns

Definition of churn (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to agitate (milk or cream) in a churn in order to make butter The farmer churns his cream every day.
2a : to stir or agitate violently an old stern-wheeler churning the muddy river larger particles pound and churn the Moon's surface— E. M. Shoemaker
b : to make (something, such as foam) by so doing
3 : to make (the account of a client) excessively active by frequent purchases and sales primarily in order to generate commissions unscrupulous brokers may churn an account, trading frequently to generate high commissions— Mary Rowland

intransitive verb

1 : to work a churn (as in making butter)
2a : to produce, proceed with, or experience violent motion or agitation her stomach was churning churning legs
b : to proceed by or as if by means of rotating members (such as wheels or propellers) boats churning across the harbor

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Synonyms for churn

Synonyms: Verb

boil, moil, roil, seethe

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Examples of churn in a Sentence


The motorboats churned the water. The water churned all around us. The wheels began to slowly churn. He showed them how to churn butter.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

On Monday evening, a week after Mr. de Blasio’s inauguration, Mr. O’Neill announced plans for deep churn in the top echelons of the Police Department, with more than a dozen promotions, changes that are set to take effect next week. Al Baker, New York Times, "Shake-Up in Hierarchy of the New York Police Department," 9 Jan. 2018 But Hutchinson and his staff could also have been seeking to reduce churn in the program if people are employed for only part of a plan year. Washington Post, "The Health 202: Arkansas decision shows Trump officials eager to make Obamacare more conservative," 6 Mar. 2018 But there are challenges to subscriptions, mainly the high churn rate. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Lyft’s monthly subscription plan is now available nationwide," 16 Oct. 2018 Il Sogno and Lüke are gone now, lost in the churn of a restaurant scene in full surge, a scene that brought me here two years ago as the new restaurant critic for the San Antonio Express-News. Mike Sutter, WSJ, "The Best Under-the-Radar Food Destination in the U.S.," 19 Oct. 2018 Amid neat rows of orchards, on cattle ranches and dairy farms across the southern territory of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the churn of daily life offers few hints of an imminent political spectacle. New York Times, "In California’s Farm Country, the Tide of ‘Resistance’ Runs Dry Ahead of the Primary," 29 May 2018 In the violent electric churn of the atmosphere, satellites were useless for signaling our brethren. Smith Henderson, Popular Mechanics, "Olympia," 20 Nov. 2017 The reason for the staff churn, of course, is that Trump is increasingly refusing to listen to anyone outside his own instincts. Dara Lind, Vox, "There is always a Trump tweet, chiefs of staff edition," 8 Dec. 2018 The churn in Kansas politics has helped create what experts rate to be two competitive House races in the November general election, which is drawing national Democratic attention. Andrew Duehren, WSJ, "Kansas Gubernatorial Race Splits GOP," 29 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As a correspondent for the anti-Semitic newspaper Social Justice, Johnson crafted stomach-churning dispatches from World War II-era Poland and Germany. Alex Beam, WSJ, "‘The Man in the Glass House’ Review: Throwing Stones at Philip Johnson," 2 Nov. 2018 Lane churned toward the island chain early this week as the most powerful type of hurricane measured: a Category 5. Fox News, "The Latest: Feds: Tropical Storm Lane still dangerous," 25 Aug. 2018 From a 60,000-square-foot plant just off the highway a few miles south of downtown Cleveland, Adler's roughly 40-person team churns outtubular metal products. David J. Lynch,, "The hidden costs of 'America First' tariffs," 7 June 2018 The clip culminates with the darker version of Lauren confronting her lighter side and performing a sizzling dance routine as the guitar churns. Dan Barna, Teen Vogue, "Lauren Jauregui Debuts Video for "Expectations," Her First Solo Single," 24 Oct. 2018 Several tornadoes touched down in the Plains, and one of them was a frighteningly large twister that churned across Kansas. Angela Fritz, Washington Post, "Several large tornadoes raked the Plains on Tuesday; another round starts this evening," 2 May 2018 The birth and life of tropical cyclones in a flowing, churning atmosphere is amazingly complex. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "What pushed 2017’s Atlantic hurricane season into overdrive?," 28 Sep. 2018 The goal remains the same but the roster is constantly churning and evaluations are always taking place. Brad Biggs,, "Bears Q&A: Why did the Bears match the Kyle Fuller offer right away? Why is Jerrell Freeman still on the roster?," 21 Mar. 2018 Other currencies, especially Ethereum, have been catching up to Bitcoin's $140 billion market cap, adding further uncertainty and churn. Ben Popken /, NBC News, "Bitcoin loses more than half its value amid crypto crash," 2 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'churn.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of churn


before the 12th century , in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for churn


Middle English chirne, cherne, going back to Old English cirm (erroneously for cirin or cirn), cyrin, going back to Germanic *kernō, kernōn (whence also Middle Dutch keerne, kerne "butter churn," Middle Low German kerne, karne, kirne, Old Norse kirna —in kirnuaskr "churn pail"), of uncertain origin


Middle English chyrnen, derivative of chirne, cherne churn entry 1

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Statistics for churn

Last Updated

12 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for churn

The first known use of churn was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for churn



English Language Learners Definition of churn

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a container in which cream is stirred or shaken to make butter



English Language Learners Definition of churn (Entry 2 of 2)

: to stir or mix something (such as water or mud) with force
: to move in a circle
: to make (butter) by stirring or shaking cream in a churn


\ ˈchərn How to pronounce churn (audio) \

Kids Definition of churn

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a container in which milk or cream is stirred or shaken in making butter


churned; churning

Kids Definition of churn (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to stir or shake in a churn (as in making butter)
2 : to stir or shake forcefully The boat's motor churned up the mucky water.
3 : to feel the effects of an emotion (as fear) My stomach churned as I stood on the stage.
4 : to move by or as if by forceful stirring action Steamboats churned up and down the river.
\ ˈchərn\

Legal Definition of churn

: to make (the account of a client) excessively active by frequent purchases and sales primarily in order to generate commissions

Note: Churning is a violation of federal securities laws.

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More from Merriam-Webster on churn

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with churn

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for churn

Spanish Central: Translation of churn

Nglish: Translation of churn for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of churn for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about churn

Comments on churn

What made you want to look up churn? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having no equal

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