Definition of skim in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /skɪm/

verb (skims, skimming, skimmed)

1 [with object] Remove (a substance) from the surface of a liquid: as the scum rises, skim it off
More example sentences
  • My mother would skim the cream off the soured milk and store it until she had a quart jar of soured cream.
  • However, for an untold number of years the Indians had skimmed oil from the surface of streams and ponds.
  • This can then be skimmed from the surface and removed with a suction tube.
remove, take off, scoop off, spoon off, ladle off;
1.1Remove a substance from the surface of (a liquid): bring the stock to the boil, then skim it to remove any foam
More example sentences
  • She skimmed the bubbling surface for the burnt sugar and carried it across the kitchen to the sink, went back and stirred again, more burnt sugar.
  • Things were going well - I skimmed the surface until it was clear, added the rice until it was soft and then added the vegetables to give it delicious flavour.
  • Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, skimming often.
1.2 informal Steal or embezzle (money), especially in small amounts over a period of time: she was skimming money from the household kitty
More example sentences
  • By reducing the quality of your ingredients, you can skim some money off the top with a minimal sacrifice in quality.
  • And, now they've been made into kind of these big monopolies that are skimming enormous amounts of money.
  • Less money would be skimmed off the price of food by corporate middlemen, and far more would remain in the hands of farmers.
1.3 (often as noun skimming) Fraudulently copy (credit or debit card details) with a card swipe or other device.
2 [no object, with adverbial of direction] Go or move quickly and lightly over or on a surface or through the air: he let his fingers skim across her shoulders
More example sentences
  • ‘She's cold as ice,’ Blake agreed lazily, the fleshy pad of his thumb skimming lightly over her lower lip.
  • She gazed back at Sharpie's fingers as they skimmed lightly over the plastic keys.
  • And the dog skims low over the surface grabbing the ball before it bounces twice, before it travels beyond the second wave.
glide, move lightly, slide, sail, plane, scud, skate, float, coast;
aquaplane, skid
2.1 [with object] Pass over (a surface), nearly or lightly touching it in the process: we stood on the bridge, watching swallows skimming the water
More example sentences
  • Over the fast blue waters of the Harrison we blasted up the river, skimming the surface at high speed, skipping lightly over submerged sand bars.
  • Sharlotte had her hand trailing in the water, her fingers skimming the bubbling surface.
  • Here, we skim the nightscape surface, never getting too close to its image, but never losing sight of it.
2.2 [with object] Throw (a flat stone) low over an expanse of water so that it bounces on the surface several times: he bent to pick up a small pebble, skimming it across the glittering water
More example sentences
  • Imagine landing a plane or skimming a flat rock across a body of water.
  • Down at the water's edge I taught my daughters to skim stones.
  • She hunkered down for a stone and skimmed it along the water.
throw, toss, fling, cast, pitch;
bounce, skip
3 [with object] Read (something) quickly so as to note only the important points: he skimmed the report [no object]: she skimmed through the newspaper
More example sentences
  • She let her eyes skim the page, not really reading it, until she got to verse thirty-nine.
  • Lacey reached forward and took it, her eyes briefly skimming over the first few pages.
  • When writing about an author, it's often helpful to at least skim through his latest book.
glance through, flick through, flip through, leaf through, thumb through, read quickly, scan, look through, have a quick look at, run one's eye over, dip into, browse through
3.1 (skim over) Deal with or treat (a subject) briefly or superficially: she skimmed over her meeting with Roger—it had suddenly become rather difficult to speak of him
More example sentences
  • Why would they treat this sultana in such a fashion whereas their counterparts briefly skimmed over her career?
  • As a conversationalist, Birkin is a whirlwind, skimming over subjects, lifting them up, reshaping them utterly before throwing them back down.
  • But the media simply skimmed over that subject.
mention briefly, make only brief mention of, pass over quickly, skate over, gloss over;


1A thin layer of a substance on the surface of a liquid: a skim of ice
More example sentences
  • The greens are perfect but the fairways have a skim of water all over them.
  • For your paint, add a skim of water (latex paint) or mineral spirits (oil-based paint), then seal the can or bucket.
  • We followed a creek into the woods, walking in its thin skim of water.
2An act of reading something quickly or superficially: a quick skim through the pamphlet
More example sentences
  • I just quickly did a little skim through the OZ's website and they are STILL carping on about Media Watch over there.
  • A quick skim through Haines' back catalog yields more fizzy bile.
  • A quick skim through the list of attendees also suggests the mainstream press will be here, too.


Middle English (in the sense 'remove scum from (a liquid)'): back-formation from skimmer, or from Old French escumer, from escume 'scum, foam'.

Words that rhyme with skim

bedim, brim, crim, dim, glim, grim, Grimm, gym, him, hymn, Jim, Kim, limb, limn, nim, prim, scrim, shim, Sim, slim, swim, Tim, trim, vim, whim

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: skim

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.