\ 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

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Examples of churn in a Sentence

Verb 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 Despite the churn, the startup sector is poised to create 125,000 direct jobs and 400,000 indirect jobs by 2025. Quartz India, "Sairee Chahal on the jobs that will define India’s future," 11 Feb. 2020 Now, a majority of top prospects are bound to their future college programs in December — when the churn of assistant coaches begins to accelerate. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football signee 'still fully in,' even after his recruiters leave him without familiar face," 23 Jan. 2020 The churn at some of India’s most prominent startups in the last month alone is a testament. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "The talent crisis plaguing Indian startups reflects the country’s deep education crisis," 13 Jan. 2020 Who's out: LT Jon Runyan Jr., LG Ben Bredeson, RG Mike Onwenu, C Cesar Ruiz, Stephen Spanellis The outlook: A lot of churn at this position, with four departing starters. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Projecting Michigan football's depth chart as offseason begins," 4 Jan. 2020 As bad as the constant churn is for Pacific democracies, a more authoritarian system is unlikely to be any better. The Economist, "Why politics in the south Pacific are so precarious," 7 Nov. 2019 As well as Duke and Kentucky have recruited in recent years, constant roster churn can be a formula for frustration. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Lessons from Jordan Nwora, Charles Bassey and UK stars: Why postponing NBA made sense," 24 Oct. 2019 Roster churn is the norm at a place like Ajax, which is known for producing young talent, selling it off and repeating the process. Luis Miguel Echegaray,, "Edson Alvarez Tunes Out the Noise as He Embraces His Ajax Challenge," 3 Oct. 2019 Leadership churn has been an ongoing issue in Westminster, which has had 10 city managers in the last 14 years, and five police chiefs in the last eight years. Los Angeles Times, "Could verbal brawls and rants ruin Westminster’s Vietnamese American council majority?," 28 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The rumor mill is starting to churn in Hong Kong, where large parts of the population are now wearing face masks and hand sanitizers are readily available at offices, apartment buildings and hotels. Fortune, "HSBC, Tencent and others limit China travel as deadly virus spreads," 22 Jan. 2020 That’s fast enough to churn up 4,050 ft-lbs of kinetic energy at the muzzle and 43 ft-lbs of recoil at 18.7 fps at the shoulder in an 8-pound rifle. Ron Spomer, Outdoor Life, "Best Calibers For Africa Plains Game," 13 Jan. 2020 By getting a percentage, the referrer wants their friends not just to save -- but to trade and to churn. Olga Kharif,, "Crypto Exchanges Step Up Customer Bounties as Volume Falls," 24 Sep. 2019 The planet’s Great Red Spot — which appears as a prominent, flame-hued blemish on the gas giant — is a massive storm that has been churning on Jupiter for centuries. Denise Chow, NBC News, "Jupiter's Great Red Spot has gotten smaller — but researchers say it's here to stay," 26 Nov. 2019 And while the outfield has been churning with injuries, Canha’s been one constant. Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News, "Athletics’ Mark Canha named AL Player of the Week, an acknowledgment of his rise to one of MLB’s best hitters," 26 Aug. 2019 Get ready for the NBA rumor mill to start churning. Rusty Simmons,, "Are Golden State Warriors ready to make some trades?," 16 Dec. 2019 And the numbers have only kept churning for the album since the 25th-anniversary reissue -- up by 1,237% to be exact. Heran Mamo, Billboard, "R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe & Mike Mills Call 'Monster' Era the 'Top of Our Game' in New 'Speakeasy' Interview," 3 Dec. 2019 In the second quarter, Sutton took a reverse around the end on 4th-and-1 deep in Minnesota territory and was met with resistance by several defenders, but kept his legs churning and extended the ball for the first down. Kyle Newman, The Denver Post, "Courtland Sutton, quickly emerging as an elite NFL wideout, posts another monster game in Broncos’ deflating loss to Minnesota," 17 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for churn

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for churn

Last Updated

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Churn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for churn


How to pronounce churn (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for churn

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

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