\ 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 Delta will still be burning through $30 million a day in cash reserves at the end of June, but that's better than the $100 million churn of a few weeks ago. Phil Wahba, Fortune, "Delta CEO says return to break-even is in sight," 18 June 2020 Indeed, the process offered a predictable churn: In Portland, the black neighborhoods at first were largely left on their own to sink or swim; then priorities changed, and the police moved in en masse, says Imarisha. oregonlive, "Oregon’s founders sought a ‘white utopia,’ a stain of racism that lives on even as state celebrates its progressivism," 14 June 2020 That’s 3,000 people right there – a conservative estimate before factoring in injuries, potential trades and the overall churn in a season of at least 100 games. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Here's how difficult it would be to create an MLB bubble in Arizona," 8 Apr. 2020 Take a look at the internet churn, and one thing is clear: Millennials are into all things witchy right now. Natalie Morin,, "You Won’t See Any Men In Motherland: Fort Salem. Seriously — It’s A Mood," 18 Mar. 2020 Hampered by administrative churn, budget shortfalls and bipartisan political stalemates, DCFS has served just 80 children to date, according to records and interviews. David Jackson, ProPublica, "Thousands of Foster Children Were Sent Out of State to Mental Health Facilities Where Some Faced Abuse and Neglect," 14 Mar. 2020 On high-traffic boards like /b/, the result was a sort of productive churn, a memetic primal soup that spawned jokes and fleeting crazes and outbreaks of unsettling behavior. Hari Kunzru, The New York Review of Books, "For the Lulz," 10 Mar. 2020 Boards want bosses with an ever-broader set of skills; the rise of private equity means more churn; demand in emerging markets is increasing; and companies are planning succession years in advance. The Economist, "The week in charts Shrek 5: the headhunters," 7 Feb. 2020 Now, with the Tigers’ 40-man roster in a semi-constant churn, the nameplates at the top of their locker stalls were necessary for identification. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' winter caravan shows how far team has fallen," 23 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The tendency to churn portfolios is higher in men than women. The Economist, "Buttonwood To understand the new wave of small investors, look to China," 20 June 2020 Tropical Depression Cristobal continues to churn in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Dallas News, "Hot & muggy weather sticking around through the weekend," 5 June 2020 Their quarterback is young and getting better, his churning legs unafraid to take off when his strong arm has nowhere to throw., "Might this year be different for the Buffalo Bills? - The Boston Globe," 29 Sep. 2019 Imagine a dust cloud of flour and a cement mixer that churns biscuit batter. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, "Biscuit Belly is bringing the fancy biscuit craze to Louisville's NuLu," 6 June 2019 Until March, advising people that bread-making is an essential life skill would have sounded to many like being told to learn how to churn their own butter or raise their own barn. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, "The Pandemic Has Reminded Americans They Are Capable of Baking," 12 May 2020 Just pour in your mix and allow the electric device to churn the ice cream for you. Christie Calucchia, Southern Living, "The Best Ice Cream Makers for Homemade Frozen Treats," 5 May 2020 All this storytelling can give the agitated mind something to churn on, but obsessing over conditionals can also add to the moment-to-moment burden of preventing sickness and death, and tending to the sick and dying. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "The Literature of Plagues Gives Us Words to Live By," 21 Apr. 2020 As nervous shoppers strip grocery and variety store shelves of tissue, Georgia-Pacific’s Naheola mill is working to churn it out. William Thornton |, al, "Toilet paper manufacturer in Alabama says they won’t run out," 13 Mar. 2020

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

22 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Churn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 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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