Definition of skim in English:



  • 1with object Remove (a substance) from the surface of a liquid.

    ‘as the scum rises, skim it off’
    • ‘American Indians enjoyed the whole and ground nuts as well as the oil they skimmed from a pot of boiling peanuts.’
    • ‘Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skim off any surface scum, and add onion, garlic, and bay leaf.’
    • ‘Chill when done, skim off the fat on top the next morning.’
    • ‘My mother would skim the cream off the soured milk and store it until she had a quart jar of soured cream.’
    • ‘This can then be skimmed from the surface and removed with a suction tube.’
    • ‘Bring them to the boil, skim off the froth on the top and leave them to cook.’
    • ‘Simmer for five minutes before skimming off any scummy bits gathered on the surface.’
    • ‘First, the survey found, the local governor skimmed off 40 percent.’
    • ‘Once a cleanup team has contained the oil, it can attempt to skim it off the surface of the water.’
    • ‘When this happens, skim off any foam that has risen to the surface.’
    • ‘Once boiling, skim off the fat and any scum from the surface.’
    • ‘Remove the duck pieces, skim off as much fat as possible.’
    • ‘Bring slowly to the boil, skimming off the froth that rises to the surface.’
    • ‘You can use a gravy spoon to skim off and discard some of the fat.’
    • ‘To serve, skim off the fat and simmer for an hour.’
    • ‘Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by half, skimming off any excess fat.’
    • ‘Refrigerate, skimming off any fat after an hour or so.’
    • ‘However, for an untold number of years the Indians had skimmed oil from the surface of streams and ponds.’
    • ‘After we have cooked anything in the masterstock we strain it, return it to the boil for two more minutes while skimming off any impurities.’
    remove, take off, scoop off, spoon off, ladle off
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    1. 1.1 Remove a substance from the surface of (a liquid)
      ‘bring the stock to the boil, then skim it to remove any foam’
      • ‘Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, skimming.’
      • ‘Simmer the cooking liquid until reduced to four cups, skimming the surface as needed to remove any impurities.’
      • ‘When cookbooks talk about stock, they often imply that the worst mistake you can make is letting it boil or not skimming often enough.’
      • ‘Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, skimming often.’
      • ‘Bring to the boil, skim, then turn down the heat and barely simmer for at least two hours.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Add cold water almost to cover and bring slowly to the boil, skimming if necessary.’
      • ‘Cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally.’
      • ‘Reduce to two cups of liquid, skimming as needed.’
      • ‘For the oxtail consommé: In a pot, cover bones and oxtail with water; bring to a low simmer, skimming frequently.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2informal Steal or embezzle (money), especially in small amounts over a period of time.
      ‘she was skimming money from the household kitty’
      • ‘And, now they've been made into kind of these big monopolies that are skimming enormous amounts of money.’
      • ‘As the flow of revenue rises, more can be skimmed off for military objectives.’
      • ‘These men have reportedly admitted involvement in the killing and in a scheme that skimmed money from the proceeds of the store.’
      • ‘A look at the accompanying tables confirms which industries have skimmed the most wealth from the American populace.’
      • ‘And the money can be lost, stolen, or skimmed off the top by the pool's organizer.’
      • ‘By reducing the quality of your ingredients, you can skim some money off the top with a minimal sacrifice in quality.’
      • ‘Less money would be skimmed off the price of food by corporate middlemen, and far more would remain in the hands of farmers.’
      • ‘The difference is, any capital that goes into Cuba gets skimmed off, for a better word, to the Cuban government.’
      • ‘Atong claimed I was skimming the money I was collecting for the president.’
      • ‘Colleagues said he stole medical supplies and skimmed profits from hospital contracts.’
      • ‘Tens of millions of pounds have been skimmed off compensation payments to sick ex-miners by rogue solicitors, it was claimed last night.’
      • ‘In the Bank of China case, Hong Kong authorities allege that Fan started skimming money in the early 1990s, when he worked at the Kaiping branch.’
      • ‘Over the past three years, he'd managed to skim a little over eight thousand crowns worth of currency.’
      • ‘I know she's not the brightest, but she is from Fife and they know all about skimming public money there, don't they?’
      • ‘We're betting that's your future - and remember the special function that allows the holder of the pool to skim a little off the top.’
      • ‘I wouldn't be surprised if he skimmed a little off the top.’
      • ‘So I started to skim some money off the top, sending it down here to Mitch for the bar.’
      misappropriate, steal, rob, thieve, pilfer, appropriate, abstract, defraud someone of, siphon off, pocket, take, take for oneself, help oneself to, line one's pockets with, line one's purse with
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    3. 1.3often as noun skimming Fraudulently copy (credit or debit card details) with a card swipe or other device.
  • 2no 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’
    • ‘They fired again and the beams just skimmed past the girl's shoulder.’
    • ‘We become like ice-skaters, skimming fast over the surface.’
    • ‘Snowy herons skimmed low over the water, and choruses of warbling frogs emanated from clusters of lily pads.’
    • ‘The clouds were skimming lower than usual, but other than that, the sky was clear.’
    • ‘To drink, these graceful birds skim low over the surface scooping water with open mouths.’
    • ‘Tory froze, fingertips still skimming in the water.’
    • ‘And the dog skims low over the surface grabbing the ball before it bounces twice, before it travels beyond the second wave.’
    • ‘The roses bloomed, swallows skimmed low and the breeze swished the treetops.’
    • ‘We skim past Joe who's given up and is drinking a beer with Trin and Lucy on the seats.’
    • ‘Unfortunately for him the ball skimmed narrowly wide.’
    • ‘The bullet entered his left thigh, skimmed past the kneecap and came out the upper calf on the opposite side of the leg.’
    • ‘Cyclists and drivers unperturbed by my precarious position skimmed past me in both directions.’
    • ‘When I opened my eyes, we were dancing on ice - skating, flying, skimming across the mirrored surface.’
    • ‘Then it was off, skimming across a glasslike surface leaving a creamy white trail behind us.’
    • ‘One hand left the warmth of her body and skimmed lightly over the surface of the jade pool.’
    • ‘As soon as he said that a bullet skimmed past the driver, cutting his arm.’
    • ‘She gazed back at Sharpie's fingers as they skimmed lightly over the plastic keys.’
    • ‘In the past, the training only skimmed over numerous subjects in a mere two weeks.’
    • ‘This can make life superficial, lived on the surface like the ice-skater skimming at speed but with no depth.’
    • ‘‘She's cold as ice,’ Blake agreed lazily, the fleshy pad of his thumb skimming lightly over her lower lip.’
    glide, move lightly, slide, sail, plane, scud, skate, float, coast
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    1. 2.1with object Pass over (a surface), nearly or lightly touching it in the process.
      ‘we stood on the bridge, watching swallows skimming the water’
      • ‘Here, we skim the nightscape surface, never getting too close to its image, but never losing sight of it.’
      • ‘We have not even started to skim just the surface of the available opportunities.’
      • ‘He gingerly probed his scalp, then winced as his hands skimmed over the lump.’
      • ‘I began circling the black monstrosity, barely skimming my hand on the surface.’
      • ‘I start when I feel his hands skim the fullness of my breasts.’
      • ‘Kirkby actually came closest to scoring when a thunderous long-range effort from Steve Chapman skimmed the crossbar.’
      • ‘Johnny grabbed onto the side and pulled himself up, his boot skimming the surface of the fire.’
      • ‘"I can't help it, " he whispered back, his fingers lightly skimming the curve of my neck.’
      • ‘A flight of Broadwings skimmed the surface of the water.’
      • ‘I have barely skimmed the surface of this fascinating volume of essays.’
      • ‘Suddenly, instead of skimming the glassy surface, you could be struggling with the deep, dark world of potential disaster.’
      • ‘Although Kusturica's satire is often bitterly funny, it always just skims surface.’
      • ‘And that's just skimming the surface of the ' leftist ' propaganda out there.’
      • ‘Sharlotte had her hand trailing in the water, her fingers skimming the bubbling surface.’
      • ‘The ball skimmed the dirt which means it was no longer in flight to make a legal catch.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Just as her fingertips skimmed it, Danny tugged it away.’
      touch, touch lightly, brush, brush against, rub lightly, shave, kiss, caress, sweep, scrape, glance off, clip
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    2. 2.2with 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’
      • ‘A recent effort discloses effective methods for stone skimming on water bodies.’
      • ‘Dropping the stones he had been skimming across the surface of the slow-flowing creek, he reached immediately for the gun in his jacket.’
      • ‘That is to say nothing of the cerebral challenges in finding the most unlikely-looking stone to successfully skim.’
      • ‘Imagine landing a plane or skimming a flat rock across a body of water.’
      • ‘At one point I was skimming stones into the mist, and I couldn't tell how many jumps they'd made as I'd lost contact.’
      • ‘It feels like a great hand has suddenly grabbed hold and flung you across the surface like a skimming stone.’
      • ‘And finally, a French physicist has come up with a mathematical formula for skimming stones on water.’
      • ‘Down at the water's edge I taught my daughters to skim stones.’
      • ‘McKinna claims that stone skimming can be compared to the javelin and discus.’
      • ‘She hunkered down for a stone and skimmed it along the water.’
      • ‘He was babbling away to himself, skimming stones through the dust to emphasise his broken punctuation.’
      throw, toss, fling, cast, pitch
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  • 3with object Read (something) quickly so as to note only the important points.

    ‘he skimmed the report’
    no object ‘she skimmed through the newspaper’
    • ‘I skimmed ahead and noticed that these footnotes soon end.’
    • ‘I tore into the envelope and pulled out the letter, skimming quickly over it.’
    • ‘She skimmed quickly, knowing that her time was likely growing shorter.’
    • ‘Your eyes skim past the Web listings that invite you to visit the company online.’
    • ‘She let her eyes skim the page, not really reading it, until she got to verse thirty-nine.’
    • ‘She skimmed through the pages of her magazine, but stopped at the main article.’
    • ‘I quickly skimmed through the heads of the files, frantically searching for Enrico.’
    • ‘With his long nailed finger, he skimmed through the many lines of text until he found a paragraph that was familiar to him.’
    • ‘I skimmed down the page then quickly tried a site.’
    • ‘But, skimming through it, I came across a quote that really caught my eye, from the wife of a soldier.’
    • ‘When writing about an author, it's often helpful to at least skim through his latest book.’
    • ‘The business section was filled with Enron stories, and he skimmed that quickly.’
    • ‘Lacey reached forward and took it, her eyes briefly skimming over the first few pages.’
    • ‘She quickly skims the entire letter, then reads more carefully at the end.’
    • ‘Her fingertips brushed along the pages as she started to skim through the book.’
    • ‘She handed the bright colored flyer to Liam, which he quickly unfolded and skimmed.’
    • ‘As for me, a long time ago, I merely skimmed through this article by Bataille.’
    • ‘He skimmed down the page, only looking quickly at it.’
    • ‘All this is irrelevant because the little bit I skimmed bored me, so I decided to stop and talk about myself.’
    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
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    1. 3.1skim 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’
      • ‘In the past, the training only skimmed over numerous subjects in a mere two weeks.’
      • ‘But it skims over Empire and Jedi to a certain extent and as the review says dissolves into some repetitive rah-rah about Lucas.’
      • ‘Blackden succeeds in sticking to his promise of covering the more interesting cases in detail rather than skimming over a lot of cases.’
      • ‘But the media simply skimmed over that subject.’
      • ‘Why would they treat this sultana in such a fashion whereas their counterparts briefly skimmed over her career?’
      • ‘The movie is preoccupied with the notion of an ethereal ‘fated’ love (as many romances are) and skims over any solid discussion.’
      • ‘Someone Else's Country skimmed over the 1984-93 period.’
      • ‘The high-pitched voice skims over a flourish of spoon and dessert bowl - riveting drama for fan gaze.’
      • ‘As a conversationalist, Birkin is a whirlwind, skimming over subjects, lifting them up, reshaping them utterly before throwing them back down.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, the problems Mike has had to deal with are skimmed over in a hastily produced final chapter.’
      mention briefly, make only brief mention of, pass over quickly, skate over, gloss over
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  • 1A thin layer of a substance on the surface of a liquid.

    ‘a skim of ice’
    • ‘For your paint, add a skim of water (latex paint) or mineral spirits (oil-based paint), then seal the can or bucket.’
    • ‘He rocks the boat under his feet so we bob and toss through the green skim of milfoil.’
    • ‘Then they barefoot a back-arching skim on to a spirit-level pond.’
    • ‘Fresh snow coated the pavement in a thin, slippery skim of white.’
    • ‘Bream and pike play in its chill current, swooping birds scoop insects at its skim.’
    • ‘We followed a creek into the woods, walking in its thin skim of water.’
    • ‘The greens are perfect but the fairways have a skim of water all over them.’
    • ‘The skim and cream are stored in dedicated storage silos until needed for batch production.’
  • 2An act of reading something quickly or superficially.

    ‘a quick skim through the pamphlet’
    • ‘Readers who have been disappointed by a cursory skim of the book should re-read it in order to discover its hidden treasures.’
    • ‘In the next section I encountered something which I noticed on my first skim of the book.’
    • ‘He put the sheet aside after he'd given it a quick skim, ‘Well that seems fine, you obviously worked well last summer.’’
    • ‘A skim through the letters you chose to publish on the Tampa affair confirms to just how far out of step with the vast majority of Australians you are.’
    • ‘A skim through the film release schedule of the next few months shows the diverse works emerging from the troubled countries of the Middle East.’
    • ‘But a skim does not do justice to the double-barreled implications of these two reports.’
    • ‘A quick skim through Haines' back catalog yields more fizzy bile.’
    • ‘Even at first skim, what becomes abundantly ambiguous is the question of whether crisis is a state of objective being or a mode of engagement.’
    • ‘A brief skim suggests that this is a pretty broad ruling, although unfortunately I don't think I'll have time to blog more on the details.’
    • ‘A quick skim through the list of attendees also suggests the mainstream press will be here, too.’
    • ‘I still have the print version somewhere, but it's one of those things you don't take out for a light skim.’
    • ‘I just quickly did a little skim through the OZ's website and they are STILL carping on about Media Watch over there.’


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