\ ˈchərn \
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

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 Her Twitter account is a steady churn of support and mutual admiration for like-minded liberals, salted with signal boosts of stories about the Flint water crisis, the Israel-Palestine conflict, police brutality, immigration. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "Rashida Tlaib Isn’t Waiting to Get to Congress to Help Other Women," 20 Sep. 2018 Reducing that churn has become harder as the unemployment rate has dropped and several cities have raised the minimum wage. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, "Where Companies Welcome Refugees, the More, the Better," 1 Apr. 2018 For all the talk of churn, Trump often expresses frustration with aides and then does not take action. Zeke Miller, The Seattle Times, "Trump eyeing staffing shakeup in Cabinet and at White House," 13 Nov. 2018 The conditions also led to high rates of teacher turnover, and the instability caused by staff churn ultimately harmed students, Vowels said. Mandy Mclaren, The Courier-Journal, "Should JCPS pay teachers more if they work in low-performing schools?," 23 June 2018 Storm preparations are involved and arduous even for weather not nearly as vicious as this, not to mention that the constant churn can put sailors on edge at degrees far below 40. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Watch a Container Ship Roll to a Stomach-Churning 40 Degrees," 23 Aug. 2017 The constant churn of players, the need to sell every season, must be frustrating, even if an unusually large number of players seem to find their way back to Atletico. Jonathan Wilson,, "Diego Simeone's Future Enters Focus After Atletico Madrid's Europa League Title," 16 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Things get gloriously gross in Eli Roth’s stomach-churning body horror. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The 28 Best Halloween Movies on Netflix," 11 Oct. 2018 When Kate Middleton dipped out of public view, there was just one less harmless distraction from the bleak, ever-churning news cycle that dominates so much of the world. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Kate Middleton Is Officially Back on Royal Duty, and Charming the World Again," 2 Oct. 2018 Yet, those four months clearly weren’t enough for the group to churn up any new hits that, from the sounds of Mania, can rival the heights of their previous releases. Maeve Mcdermott, USA TODAY, "Review: Fall Out Boy's 'Mania' is an unholy mess," 19 Jan. 2018 Everything from exploding stars to the super heated material churning around a black hole can give off X-rays that Chandra can pick up. Loren Grush, The Verge, "After briefly going offline, NASA’s Chandra X-ray space telescope is back in action," 15 Oct. 2018 And there’s a Baldur’s Gate 3 in the works? 2003’s rumor mill is churning hard this week. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Walking Dead resurrected, Baldur's Gate 3 rumors, Into the Breach done quick," 12 Oct. 2018 The Kylie Jenner rumor mill is once again churning and she’s once again here to shut it down. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "Kylie Jenner Shut Down Travis Scott Breakup Rumors," 19 Aug. 2018 Lyft, which has long trailed Uber in New York City, says it’s concerned about driver churn during the pause. Johana Bhuiyan, Recode, "Uber and Lyft are fighting a critical battle against New York City — and this time, they might not win," 2 Aug. 2018 Fishermen sit silently on the banks as pleasure boats churn the muddy water. The Economist, "Brexit is reverberating in British literature," 5 July 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

20 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \

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

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involving abstract or general statements

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