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Noun from Middle English cherne, chrine, chyrne, kyrne ( > Scots kirn), from Old English ċyrn, ċyrin, ċirin (a churn), from Proto-Germanic *kernǭ (churn), verb from Middle English chernen from Old English ċernan, from Proto-Germanic *kirnijaną (to churn, stir), 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): /tʃɝn/
  • (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
    • 1717, Joseph Addison, Metamorphoses
      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 that my stomach was churning.
  4. (of a customer) To stop using a company's product or service.
  5. (informal, travel, aviation) To repeatedly cancel and rebook a reservation in order to refresh ticket time limits or other fare rule restrictions.
  6. (US, informal, finance, travel) To continually sign up for new credit cards in order to earn signup bonuses, airline miles, and other benefits.

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churn (countable and uncountable, plural churns)

  1. A vessel used for churning, especially for producing butter.
    a butter churn
  2. Customer attrition; the phenomenon or rate of customers leaving a company.
  3. (telecommunications) The time when a consumer switches his/her service provider.
  4. (telecommunications) The mass of people who are ready to switch carriers.
  5. 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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