\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, 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

For companies, the low churn rate has been both good and bad. Justin Lahart, WSJ, "One Surprising Reason Why Companies Struggle to Fill Jobs," 5 June 2018 Being either ignored or attacked by Trump can be demoralizing, and the staff churn that was constant during Trump's first year has not slowed. Anchorage Daily News, "Exhausted aides of a chaotic president eye White House exits," 11 June 2018 High levels of churn are considered a feature of a healthy job market. Justin Lahart, WSJ, "One Surprising Reason Why Companies Struggle to Fill Jobs," 5 June 2018 The constant churn above the GM starting with Lucchino’s dismissal in 2001 was extraordinary for any sports team. Tom Krasovic,, "All this Padres losing wouldn't sit well with Kevin Towers," 11 May 2018 The nation supports itself with businesses, including a smoke shop and a diner, Firekeepers, that see a constant churn of customers pulling off the nearby highway. New York Times, "A Story of Survival Revived by the Cicadas’ Loud (and Crunchy) Return," 22 June 2018 This sort of roster churn is not uncommon when a new coaching staff takes over a program. Michael Lev And Justin Spears, azcentral, "Arizona Wildcats football roster in flux during offseason," 13 June 2018 All the while, there was a constant churn of children around them. Michael E. Miller, Washington Post, "‘Where’s Mommy?’: A family fled death threats, only to face separation at the border.," 18 Mar. 2018 Remembering it put a shock of sweat in his armpits, and his stomach gave a fearful churn. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "A transgender girl rises up against alien invaders in Rich Larson’s novel Annex," 8 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Featuring melodramas, shoot-outs, music, butter-churning, ice cream making, Dutch oven cooking, games, gold panning. Michelle Jenkins, idahostatesman, "Big July Calendar: Month is lit with fireworks, comic con and the Canyon County Fair," 28 June 2018 In one case, material on the ocean floor is churning and reacting to generate complex organic materials chemically. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Saturn's Moon Enceladus Is Spewing Complex Organic Molecules Into Space," 27 June 2018 With a few taps of his thumbs (or those of his assistants), Trump can churn up a vortex that sucks in the world around him — which is scary, sure. Michael Andor Brodeur,, "In a lonely place, with Trump," 16 June 2018 For example, if the sight or smell of remains sends your stomach churning, drink some milk. Hanna Krueger,, "Over 10,000 days of life spent digging graves for New Orleans' dead," 29 May 2018 As the economy churns every year, with some jobs lost and some jobs gained, most of the net gain is due to new businesses starting up, said Nolan Klouda, executive director at the Center for Economic Development. Annie Zak, Anchorage Daily News, "Report: Alaska’s recession doesn’t seem to have dampened startup activity," 28 May 2018 Subtropical Storm Alberto is churning north while strengthening over the Gulf of Mexico today. Brian Mcnoldy, Washington Post, "Severe impacts from Subtropical Storm Alberto beginning in Florida and parts of the Southeast," 27 May 2018 Sarachan’s contract will expire, the World Cup will churn the global coaching pool and then, a new chapter for American soccer will begin. Brian Straus,, "For Young USMNT Squad, Trio of upcoming Friendlies Will Instill Experience for the Long Run," 27 May 2018 The Arabian Sea churned Saturday morning, sending mounds of sea foam into the air. Fox News, "Powerful cyclone lashes into Arabian Peninsula, killing at least 3," 26 May 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

11 Oct 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.


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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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).


a state of commotion or excitement

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