\ 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

Il Sogno and Lüke are gone now, lost in the churn of a restaurant scene in full surge, a scene that brought me here two years ago as the new restaurant critic for the San Antonio Express-News. Mike Sutter, WSJ, "The Best Under-the-Radar Food Destination in the U.S.," 19 Oct. 2018 Amid neat rows of orchards, on cattle ranches and dairy farms across the southern territory of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the churn of daily life offers few hints of an imminent political spectacle. New York Times, "In California’s Farm Country, the Tide of ‘Resistance’ Runs Dry Ahead of the Primary," 29 May 2018 In the violent electric churn of the atmosphere, satellites were useless for signaling our brethren. Smith Henderson, Popular Mechanics, "Olympia," 20 Nov. 2017 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The rumor mill is also churning with some celebrity names like Sir Elton John, Ellie Goulding, Cara Delevingne, Kate Moss, and maybe even a Clooney repeat. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Everything You Need to Know About Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s Wedding," 8 Oct. 2018 The water in the Horizon House pool churned as the class of 14 jogged in place and pushed and pulled arms through the water. Nicole Tsong, The Seattle Times, "Retirement center residents get a great workout in the pool," 24 Sep. 2018 Wallace’s writing delivers gut-churning authenticity. F. Kathleen Foley,, "The 99-Seat Beat: 'Slaughter City,' '39 Steps' and more," 22 June 2018 Neither Uma Thurman, who is murdered first in the flick, nor Riley Keough, whose stomach-churning death prompted more than a dozen walkouts from this reporter's vantage point, came to Cannes to promote the film or walk the red carpet. Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY, "Disgust, walkouts hit Lars von Trier's gruesome murder epic 'The House That Jack Built'," 14 May 2018 Scaglione churned the momentum to a giddy, exuberant rush of an ending that brought the audience to their feet. Christian Hertzog,, "A game of musical chairs and an impressive debut: Scaglione stellar with the San Diego Symphony," 7 Apr. 2018 Within a matter of hours, a possible act of anti-auction protest by an inveterate art prankster had been transmogrified by the churning gears of the market into an auction-reifying, value-amplifying piece of monetizable performance art. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "The Price of Everything,," 18 Oct. 2018 Toward the beginning the camera shows the gardens, a sprinkler churning on the grass, the Mediterranean tiles on the roof glistening. James Mcauley, Town & Country, "The Tragic, Fascinating History of Santo Sospir," 13 Aug. 2018 Just a mile or so beneath the surface, near the south pole of Mars, there is a reservoir of briny water sloshing and churning below layers of ice and rock. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Underground Lake of Liquid Water Detected on Mars," 25 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

15 Feb 2019

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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

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