\ 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 The churn has done little to assuage the concerns of neighbors who regularly file complaints to the city’s One Point of Contact system. oregonlive, "Could consistent outreach impact most entrenched homeless camps? City says yes.," 3 Nov. 2019 The roster churn of early September has slowed down for the Broncos as new guys have found their niche (and, therefore, stuck around) and backups have played well as starters. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos Journal: Same game, but new rule for punt returner Diontae Spencer," 17 Oct. 2019 Chelsea seems locked in a perpetual cycle of one season good, one season bad, the endless churn of managers undermining campaign after campaign. Jonathan Wilson,, "Systemic or Specific? Reasons for Premier League Clubs' Champions League Fortunes," 15 Mar. 2018 Large urban systems tend to see an annual churn of schools coming off the list and new ones being added. al, "Here’s a look at Alabama’s ‘failing’ public schools," 5 Nov. 2019 But the main attraction is clearly the churn of mystery goods that start at $6 in 37 bins in the middle of the store. Ron Hurtibise,, "Treasure hunts become weekly bargains at new liquidation store," 31 Oct. 2019 The Ukraine story is still unfolding, and there’s too much churn and uncertainty to gauge or predict its effects. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "How Trump’s Effort to Damage Biden Could Backfire Badly," 2 Oct. 2019 Developers and urban planning specialists have countered that New York has been a city in constant churn and that remaking neighborhoods is crucial to the city’s economic vitality and its place as a global capital. Matthew Haag, New York Times, "Plan for Supertall Tower Looming Over Lower East Side Is Halted, for Now," 2 Aug. 2019 Management churn and disagreements over strategy quickly followed the 47-year-old’s collapse on a treadmill. John D. Stoll, WSJ, "Skydiving, Mountain Climbing and Other Ways Execs Terrify Their Shareholders," 21 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb One of my most vivid food memories as a kid is seeing my mom and grandma making turkey salad, churning it out with the crank meat grinder at the kitchen table. Dana Mcmahan, The Courier-Journal, "Turkey and mashed potatoes galore. So what do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?," 27 Nov. 2019 As the audio plays, the music executes a gut-churning turn out of Radiohead’s oeuvre. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Coldplay Would Like to Save the World With Vagueness," 26 Nov. 2019 These curse tablets are so uniform that historians assume that there was a cottage industry of scribes or magicians churning them out. Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, "How We Came to Live in “Cursed” Times," 7 Oct. 2019 As the California Legislature churned toward adjournment last week, its members received another reminder that the state’s most vexing — and shameful — socioeconomic malady persists. Dan Walters, The Mercury News, "Walters: California is still No. 1 in poverty," 15 Sep. 2019 As Hurricane Dorian churns northwest toward the Florida coast, 17 flights between Orlando International Airport and Denver International Airport originally scheduled for Tuesday have been canceled, according to DIA officials. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "Hurricane Dorian triggers 17 flight cancellations between Denver and Orlando," 3 Sep. 2019 As Hurricane Dorian churns toward Florida’s east coast, get local information in real time by following federal, state and local government, and your police and fire departments, among others. Doreen Christensen,, "Follow county, local police and fire departments on social media ahead of Hurricane Dorian," 31 Aug. 2019 While social-media and news outlets churned with heated opinions from all sides, Rapinoe and the team continued with the business of playing one exhilarating game after another, and fans continued with the business of loving them. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: How the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup and saved the day," 8 July 2019 The wooden carpet that had been slithering, jostling, and churning toward the sawmill stopped dead. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "The Lost Art of Floating Logs Down the River," 16 Feb. 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

6 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Churn.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 9 December 2019.

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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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