from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A vessel or device in which cream or milk is agitated to separate the oily globules from the caseous and serous parts, used to make butter.
  • noun Turbulence or agitation.
  • intransitive verb To agitate or stir (milk or cream) in order to make butter.
  • intransitive verb To make by the agitation of milk or cream.
  • intransitive verb To agitate vigorously or turn over repeatedly: synonym: agitate.
  • intransitive verb To buy and sell (a client's securities) frequently, especially in order to generate commissions.
  • intransitive verb To make butter by operating a device that agitates cream or milk.
  • intransitive verb To be turbulent or agitated.
  • intransitive verb To move by agitating water or by means of a pumping action.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A vessel in which cream or milk is agitated for the purpose of separating the oily parts from the caseous and serous parts, to make butter.
  • To stir or agitate in order to make into butter: as, to churn cream.
  • To make by the agitation of cream: as, to churn butter.
  • To shake or agitate with violence or continued motion, as in the operation of making butter.
  • To perform the act of churning, or an act resembling it.
  • noun A block or chuck on a potter's turning-lathe.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To perform the operation of churning.
  • noun A vessel in which milk or cream is stirred, beaten, or otherwise agitated (as by a plunging or revolving dasher) in order to separate the oily globules from the other parts, and obtain butter.
  • transitive verb To stir, beat, or agitate, as milk or cream in a churn, in order to make butter.
  • transitive verb To shake or agitate with violence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To agitate rapidly and repetitively, or to stir with a rowing or rocking motion; generally applies to liquids, notably cream.
  • verb transitive, figuratively To produce excessive and sometimes undesirable or unproductive activity or motion.
  • verb intransitive To move rapidly and repetitively with a rocking motion; to tumble, mix or shake.
  • noun A vessel used for churning.
  • noun telecommunications The time when a consumer switches his/her service provider.
  • noun telecommunications The mass of people who are ready to switch carriers, expressed by the formula Customer Quits/Customer base.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb stir (cream) vigorously in order to make butter
  • noun a vessel in which cream is agitated to separate butterfat from buttermilk
  • verb be agitated


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English chirne, from Old English cyrn, cyrin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English ċyrin. Cognate with West Frisian tsjerne and Dutch karnen.


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  • I like the laborious metre and sound of the word, and I'm also nostalgic for watching my Granny making butter when I was a wee fellow.

    February 22, 2007

  • Fearraigh, you've made this word sound even better. Thanks. :-)

    March 28, 2007

  • "In e-mail marketing, the churn is the percentage of your subscriber list e-mail addresses that unsubscribe or bounce over a set length of time." --Webopedia

    Though I like fearraigh's definition better.

    June 13, 2009