the act of a person or thing that churns.
the butter made at any one time.

Origin of churning

First recorded in 1400–50, churning is from the late Middle English word chyrnynge. See churn, -ing1




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 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. 2019

Related Words for churning

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

Examples from the Web for churning

Contemporary Examples of churning

Historical Examples of churning

  • She heard the clatter of pattens in the room below; it was Nancy churning in the dairy.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • That's the churning of the nightjar going up to Ballure glen.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • He will charge the boat, and nothing but the churning propeller will keep him from ramming the boat.

  • Being as destructive as the poison which was created during the churning of the Amrita.

    Russian Fairy Tales

    W. R. S. Ralston

  • The proper temperature for churning ranges from 58° to 62° Fahrenheit.

    Agriculture for Beginners

    Charles William Burkett

British Dictionary definitions for churning



the quantity of butter churned at any one time
the act, process, or effect of someone or something that churns



British 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 agitationideas 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 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 churning



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