1. a container or machine in which cream or milk is agitated to make butter.
  2. any of various containers or machines similar in shape or action to a butter churn, as a device for mixing beverages.
  3. British. a large milk can.
  4. an act of churning stocks by a stockbroker.
verb (used with object)
  1. to agitate in order to make into butter: to churn cream.
  2. to make (butter) by the agitation of cream.
  3. to shake or agitate with violence or continued motion: The storm churned the sea.
  4. to turn over and over in the mind: His brain slowly churned all the choices and possibilities.
  5. (of a stockbroker) to trade (a customer's securities) excessively in order to earn more in commissions.
verb (used without object)
  1. to operate a churn.
  2. to move or shake in agitation, as a liquid or any loose matter: The leaves churned along the ground.
  3. to be changing rapidly or be in a confused state: Her emotions churned as she viewed the horrific photos.
  4. to have a queasy feeling, as from anxiety or disgust: My insides were churning at the thought of being on stage.
  5. (of a stockbroker) to engage in the practice of churning.
Verb Phrases
  1. 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 formschurn·a·ble, adjectivechurn·a·bil·i·ty, nounchurn·er, nounun·churn, verb (used with object)un·churned, adjectivewell-churned, adjective

Synonyms for churn Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for churned

swirl, bubble, simmer, boil, froth, convulse, foam, jolt, agitate, seethe, toss, ferment, moil

Examples from the Web for churned

Contemporary Examples of churned

Historical Examples of churned

  • There was only the churned water, filled with scantlings and torn branches of trees.

    The Long Roll

    Mary Johnston

  • Every inch of this ground had been churned over and over again by shells.

    The Emma Gees

    Herbert Wes McBride

  • Simultaneously forty-eight oars dipped and churned the water into foam.

  • Much ugliness is churned up in the wake of mighty, moving forces.

    The Backwash of War

    Ellen N. La Motte

  • The floater under him churned a little, but there was no noise.

    Unwise Child

    Gordon Randall Garrett

British Dictionary definitions for churned


  1. British a large container for milk
  2. a vessel or machine in which cream or whole milk is vigorously agitated to produce butter
  3. any similar device
  4. 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
  1. (sometimes foll by up) to move or cause to move with agitationideas churned in his head
  2. (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
  3. (of a government) to pay benefits to a wide category of people and claw it back by taxation from the well off
  4. to promote the turnover of existing subscribers leasing, and new subscribers joining, a cable television system or mobile phone company
Derived Formschurner, noun

Word Origin for churn

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

Word Origin and History for churned



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