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[churn] /tʃɜrn/
a container or machine in which cream or milk is agitated to make butter.
any of various containers or machines similar in shape or action to a butter churn, as a device for mixing beverages.
British. a large milk can.
an act of churning stocks by a stockbroker.
verb (used with object)
to agitate in order to make into butter:
to churn cream.
to make (butter) by the agitation of cream.
to shake or agitate with violence or continued motion:
The storm churned the sea.
to turn over and over in the mind:
His brain slowly churned all the choices and possibilities.
(of a stockbroker) to trade (a customer's securities) excessively in order to earn more in commissions.
verb (used without object)
to operate a churn.
to move or shake in agitation, as a liquid or any loose matter:
The leaves churned along the ground.
to be changing rapidly or be in a confused state:
Her emotions churned as she viewed the horrific photos.
to have a queasy feeling, as from anxiety or disgust:
My insides were churning at the thought of being on stage.
(of a stockbroker) to engage in the practice of churning.
Verb phrases
churn out, to produce mechanically, hurriedly, or routinely:
He was hired to churn out verses for greeting cards.
Origin of churn
before 1000; Middle English chirne (noun), Old English cyrne cyr(i)n; cognate with Middle Low German kerne, Old Norse kjarni, kirna
Related forms
churnable, adjective
churnability, noun
churner, noun
unchurn, verb (used with object)
unchurned, adjective
well-churned, adjective
7. whip, toss, convulse. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for churn
  • In college you learned to churn out a five-page paper in a few hours.
  • He needs machines to churn palm oil and chemicals into soap, stamp it into bars and package it in plastic.
  • Ocean currents govern the world's weather and churn a kaleidoscope of life.
  • Journalists unconstrained by research protocols churn out self-help books that focus on select variables that interest them.
  • It erodes data by taking advantage of the churn on global peer-to-peer file-sharing systems.
  • But the stability at the top of the table belies the churn further down.
  • Flocks of bee-eaters follow tractors as they churn up croplands.
  • It is little wonder that the racing, confused tidal surges in this area churn up deep water and bring it to the surface.
  • Forget the wooden barrel with the rock salt kind that your dad forced you to churn until you cried.
  • Workers are certainly not protected from the churn of global capitalism by non-unionized work.
British Dictionary definitions for churn


(Brit) a large container for milk
a vessel or machine in which cream or whole milk is vigorously agitated to produce butter
any similar device
the number of customers who switch from one supplier to another
  1. to stir or agitate (milk or cream) in order to make butter
  2. to make (butter) by this process
(sometimes foll by up) to move or cause to move with agitation: ideas churned in his head
(of a bank, broker, etc) to encourage an investor or policyholder to change investments, endowment policies, etc, to increase commissions at the client's expense
(of a government) to pay benefits to a wide category of people and claw it back by taxation from the well off
to promote the turnover of existing subscribers leasing, and new subscribers joining, a cable television system or mobile phone company
Derived Forms
churner, noun
Word Origin
Old English ciern; related to Old Norse kjarni, Middle Low German kerne churn, German dialect Kern cream
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for churn

Old English cyrin, from Proto-Germanic *kernjon (cf. Old Norse kirna, Swedish kärna, Danish kjerne, Dutch karn, Middle High German kern); probably akin to cyrnel "kernel" (see kernel) and describing the "grainy" appearance of churned cream.


mid-15c., chyrnen, from churn (n.). Extended senses are from late 17c. Intransitive sense is from 1735. Related: Churned; churning. To churn out, of writing, is from 1902.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for churn



To artificially increase the level of activity in a law firm, insurance company, or other enterprise in order to increase commissions, feign busyness, etc: Policyholders have launched class-action suits alleging churning (1940s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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