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From Middle English cherne, chrine, chyrne, kyrne ( > Scots kirn), from Old English ċyrn, ċyrin, ċirin (a churn), from Proto-Germanic *kernǭ (churn), of unknown origin. Cognate with West Frisian tsjerne, Dutch karn, Walloon serene, German Karn, Kirne, Danish kjærne, Swedish kärna, Icelandic kirna (a churn).


  • (UK) enPR: chû(r)n, IPA(key): /tʃɜː(ɹ)n/
  • (US) IPA(key): /tʃɚn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɜː(r)n


churn (third-person singular simple present churns, present participle churning, simple past and past participle churned)

  1. (transitive) To agitate rapidly and repetitively, or to stir with a rowing or rocking motion; generally applies to liquids, notably cream.
    Now the cream is churned to make butter.
    no-churn ice cream
    • Addison
      Churned in his teeth, the foamy venom rose.
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To produce excessive and sometimes undesirable or unproductive activity or motion.
    • 2012, John Branch, “Snow Fall : The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek”, in New York Times[1]:
      The slope of the terrain, shaped like a funnel, squeezed the growing swell of churning snow into a steep, twisting gorge.
  3. (intransitive) To move rapidly and repetitively with a rocking motion; to tumble, mix or shake.
    I was so nervous my stomach was churning.
  4. (informal, travel, aviation) To repeatedly cancel and rebook a reservation in order to refresh ticket time limits or other fare rule restrictions.

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churn (countable and uncountable, plural churns)

  1. A vessel used for churning, especially for producing butter.
    a butter churn
  2. (telecommunications) The time when a consumer switches his/her service provider.
  3. (telecommunications) The mass of people who are ready to switch carriers.
  4. Cyclic activity that achieves nothing.
    • 2007, Hari Kunzru, My Revolutions (page 102)
      I wished my brain would shut up and knew that soon I'd have to start tidying, but first I needed to rest, so I tried to quell the pointless churn behind my eyes and kept on trying (in a minute) until Vicky came back home.

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