Definition of skim in US English:



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

    ‘as the scum rises, skim it off’
    • ‘Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by half, skimming off any excess fat.’
    • ‘Remove the duck pieces, skim off as much fat as possible.’
    • ‘However, for an untold number of years the Indians had skimmed oil from the surface of streams and ponds.’
    • ‘Simmer for five minutes before skimming off any scummy bits gathered on the surface.’
    • ‘When this happens, skim off any foam that has risen to the surface.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To serve, skim off the fat and simmer for an hour.’
    • ‘Chill when done, skim off the fat on top the next morning.’
    • ‘This can then be skimmed from the surface and removed with a suction tube.’
    • ‘Bring slowly to the boil, skimming off the froth that rises to the surface.’
    • ‘Bring them to the boil, skim off the froth on the top and leave them to cook.’
    • ‘Refrigerate, skimming off any fat after an hour or so.’
    • ‘Once boiling, skim off the fat and any scum from the surface.’
    • ‘You can use a gravy spoon to skim off and discard some of the fat.’
    • ‘American Indians enjoyed the whole and ground nuts as well as the oil they skimmed from a pot of boiling peanuts.’
    • ‘First, the survey found, the local governor skimmed off 40 percent.’
    • ‘Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skim off any surface scum, and add onion, garlic, and bay leaf.’
    • ‘My mother would skim the cream off the soured milk and store it until she had a quart jar of soured cream.’
    • ‘Once a cleanup team has contained the oil, it can attempt to skim it off the surface of the water.’
    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 to the boil, then skim it to remove any foam’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Simmer the cooking liquid until reduced to four cups, skimming the surface as needed to remove any impurities.’
      • ‘For the oxtail consommé: In a pot, cover bones and oxtail with water; bring to a low simmer, skimming frequently.’
      • ‘When cookbooks talk about stock, they often imply that the worst mistake you can make is letting it boil or not skimming often enough.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Reduce to two cups of liquid, skimming as needed.’
      • ‘Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, skimming.’
      • ‘Cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally.’
      • ‘Bring to the boil, skim, then turn down the heat and barely simmer for at least two hours.’
      • ‘Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, skimming often.’
      • ‘Add cold water almost to cover and bring slowly to the boil, skimming if necessary.’
    2. 1.2informal Steal or embezzle (money), especially in small amounts over a period of time.
      ‘she was skimming money from the household kitty’
      • ‘So I started to skim some money off the top, sending it down here to Mitch for the bar.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The difference is, any capital that goes into Cuba gets skimmed off, for a better word, to the Cuban government.’
      • ‘I know she's not the brightest, but she is from Fife and they know all about skimming public money there, don't they?’
      • ‘Over the past three years, he'd managed to skim a little over eight thousand crowns worth of currency.’
      • ‘As the flow of revenue rises, more can be skimmed off for military objectives.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Less money would be skimmed off the price of food by corporate middlemen, and far more would remain in the hands of farmers.’
      • ‘And the money can be lost, stolen, or skimmed off the top by the pool's organizer.’
      • ‘A look at the accompanying tables confirms which industries have skimmed the most wealth from the American populace.’
      • ‘I wouldn't be surprised if he skimmed a little off the top.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Tens of millions of pounds have been skimmed off compensation payments to sick ex-miners by rogue solicitors, it was claimed last night.’
      • ‘These men have reportedly admitted involvement in the killing and in a scheme that skimmed money from the proceeds of the store.’
      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.’
    • ‘And the dog skims low over the surface grabbing the ball before it bounces twice, before it travels beyond the second wave.’
    • ‘One hand left the warmth of her body and skimmed lightly over the surface of the jade pool.’
    • ‘The roses bloomed, swallows skimmed low and the breeze swished the treetops.’
    • ‘Then it was off, skimming across a glasslike surface leaving a creamy white trail behind us.’
    • ‘To drink, these graceful birds skim low over the surface scooping water with open mouths.’
    • ‘Cyclists and drivers unperturbed by my precarious position skimmed past me in both directions.’
    • ‘This can make life superficial, lived on the surface like the ice-skater skimming at speed but with no depth.’
    • ‘The clouds were skimming lower than usual, but other than that, the sky was clear.’
    • ‘In the past, the training only skimmed over numerous subjects in a mere two weeks.’
    • ‘The bullet entered his left thigh, skimmed past the kneecap and came out the upper calf on the opposite side of the leg.’
    • ‘Tory froze, fingertips still skimming in the water.’
    • ‘‘She's cold as ice,’ Blake agreed lazily, the fleshy pad of his thumb skimming lightly over her lower lip.’
    • ‘When I opened my eyes, we were dancing on ice - skating, flying, skimming across the mirrored surface.’
    • ‘Unfortunately for him the ball skimmed narrowly wide.’
    • ‘As soon as he said that a bullet skimmed past the driver, cutting his arm.’
    • ‘We become like ice-skaters, skimming fast over the surface.’
    • ‘She gazed back at Sharpie's fingers as they skimmed lightly over the plastic keys.’
    • ‘Snowy herons skimmed low over the water, and choruses of warbling frogs emanated from clusters of lily pads.’
    • ‘We skim past Joe who's given up and is drinking a beer with Trin and Lucy on the seats.’
    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.’
      • ‘Suddenly, instead of skimming the glassy surface, you could be struggling with the deep, dark world of potential disaster.’
      • ‘Johnny grabbed onto the side and pulled himself up, his boot skimming the surface of the fire.’
      • ‘Kirkby actually came closest to scoring when a thunderous long-range effort from Steve Chapman skimmed the crossbar.’
      • ‘"I can't help it, " he whispered back, his fingers lightly skimming the curve of my neck.’
      • ‘We have not even started to skim just the surface of the available opportunities.’
      • ‘I have barely skimmed the surface of this fascinating volume of essays.’
      • ‘Although Kusturica's satire is often bitterly funny, it always just skims surface.’
      • ‘I start when I feel his hands skim the fullness of my breasts.’
      • ‘He gingerly probed his scalp, then winced as his hands skimmed over the lump.’
      • ‘A flight of Broadwings skimmed the surface of the water.’
      • ‘I began circling the black monstrosity, barely skimming my hand on the surface.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The ball skimmed the dirt which means it was no longer in flight to make a legal catch.’
      • ‘And that's just skimming the surface of the ' leftist ' propaganda out there.’
      • ‘Just as her fingertips skimmed it, Danny tugged it away.’
      • ‘Sharlotte had her hand trailing in the water, her fingers skimming the bubbling surface.’
      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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘McKinna claims that stone skimming can be compared to the javelin and discus.’
      • ‘He was babbling away to himself, skimming stones through the dust to emphasise his broken punctuation.’
      • ‘She hunkered down for a stone and skimmed it along the water.’
      • ‘And finally, a French physicist has come up with a mathematical formula for skimming stones on water.’
      • ‘A recent effort discloses effective methods for stone skimming on water bodies.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It feels like a great hand has suddenly grabbed hold and flung you across the surface like a skimming stone.’
      throw, toss, fling, cast, pitch
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  • 3with object Read (something) quickly or cursorily so as to note only the important points.

    ‘he sat down and skimmed the report’
    no object ‘she skimmed through the newspaper’
    • ‘She quickly skims the entire letter, then reads more carefully at the end.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With his long nailed finger, he skimmed through the many lines of text until he found a paragraph that was familiar to him.’
    • ‘Lacey reached forward and took it, her eyes briefly skimming over the first few pages.’
    • ‘I quickly skimmed through the heads of the files, frantically searching for Enrico.’
    • ‘He skimmed down the page, only looking quickly at it.’
    • ‘The business section was filled with Enron stories, and he skimmed that quickly.’
    • ‘I skimmed ahead and noticed that these footnotes soon end.’
    • ‘She skimmed through the pages of her magazine, but stopped at the main article.’
    • ‘Her fingertips brushed along the pages as she started to skim through the book.’
    • ‘She skimmed quickly, knowing that her time was likely growing shorter.’
    • ‘All this is irrelevant because the little bit I skimmed bored me, so I decided to stop and talk about myself.’
    • ‘I tore into the envelope and pulled out the letter, skimming quickly over it.’
    • ‘She let her eyes skim the page, not really reading it, until she got to verse thirty-nine.’
    • ‘When writing about an author, it's often helpful to at least skim through his latest book.’
    • ‘She handed the bright colored flyer to Liam, which he quickly unfolded and skimmed.’
    • ‘Your eyes skim past the Web listings that invite you to visit the company online.’
    • ‘As for me, a long time ago, I merely skimmed through this article by Bataille.’
    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.
      • ‘Why would they treat this sultana in such a fashion whereas their counterparts briefly skimmed over her career?’
      • ‘But the media simply skimmed over that subject.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, the problems Mike has had to deal with are skimmed over in a hastily produced final chapter.’
      • ‘Someone Else's Country skimmed over the 1984-93 period.’
      • ‘Blackden succeeds in sticking to his promise of covering the more interesting cases in detail rather than skimming over a lot of cases.’
      • ‘The movie is preoccupied with the notion of an ethereal ‘fated’ love (as many romances are) and skims over any solid discussion.’
      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’
    • ‘He rocks the boat under his feet so we bob and toss through the green skim of milfoil.’
    • ‘The skim and cream are stored in dedicated storage silos until needed for batch production.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Bream and pike play in its chill current, swooping birds scoop insects at its skim.’
    • ‘Fresh snow coated the pavement in a thin, slippery skim of white.’
    • ‘Then they barefoot a back-arching skim on to a spirit-level pond.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘I still have the print version somewhere, but it's one of those things you don't take out for a light skim.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A quick skim through the list of attendees also suggests the mainstream press will be here, too.’
    • ‘Readers who have been disappointed by a cursory skim of the book should re-read it in order to discover its hidden treasures.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘In the next section I encountered something which I noticed on my first skim of the book.’
    • ‘But a skim does not do justice to the double-barreled implications of these two reports.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I just quickly did a little skim through the OZ's website and they are STILL carping on about Media Watch over there.’
    • ‘He put the sheet aside after he'd given it a quick skim, ‘Well that seems fine, you obviously worked well last summer.’’


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