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From Middle English skemen, skymen, variants of scumen, from Old French escumer (to remove scum), from escume (froth, foam), from Frankish *skūm (froth, foam), from Proto-Germanic *skūmaz (foam), from Proto-Indo-European *skew- (to cover, conceal). See scum.



skim (third-person singular simple present skims, present participle skimming, simple past and past participle skimmed)

  1. (intransitive) To pass lightly; to glide along in an even, smooth course; to glide along near the surface.
    • Alexander Pope
      Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain, / Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.
  2. (transitive) To pass near the surface of; to brush the surface of; to glide swiftly along the surface of.
    • Hazlitt
      Homer describes Mercury as flinging himself from the top of Olympus, and skimming the surface of the ocean.
  3. To hasten along with superficial attention.
    • I. Watts
      They skim over a science in a very superficial survey.
  4. To put on a finishing coat of plaster.
  5. (transitive) to throw an object so it bounces on water (skimming stones)
  6. (intransitive) to ricochet
  7. (transitive) to read quickly, skipping some detail
    I skimmed the newspaper over breakfast.
  8. (transitive) to scrape off; to remove (something) from a surface
  9. (transitive) to clear (a liquid) from scum or substance floating or lying on it, by means of a utensil that passes just beneath the surface.
    to skim milk; to skim broth
  10. (transitive) to clear a liquid from (scum or substance floating or lying on it), especially the cream that floats on top of fresh milk
    to skim cream
  11. To surreptitiously scan a payment card in order to obtain its information for fraudulent purposes.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


skim (not comparable)

  1. (of milk) Having lowered fat content.

Derived terms[edit]



skim (countable and uncountable, plural skims)

  1. A cursory reading, skipping the details.
    • 2012, John Friend, Allen Hickling, Planning Under Pressure (page xxii)
      For a first quick appreciation of the approach, we recommend a fast reading of Chapter 1, then a skim through the figures of the next two chapters — glancing at the definitions of key concepts that appear below the figures in Chapters 2 and 3.
  2. (informal) Skim milk.
    • 2010, Gary G. Kindley, Growing Older Without Fear: The Nine Qualities of Successful Aging
      Two percent milk has only a fraction less fat than whole milk, so unless you are feeding a child or someone whose diet requires whole milk, skim is best.
  3. The act of skimming.
    • 1969, Newsweek (volume 74, page 75)
      Then you could jump 150 years and enjoy a skim across the Solent in Britain's remarkable Hovercraft.
  4. That which is skimmed off.