Pronunciation Verb

skim (skims, present participle skimming; past and past participle skimmed)

  1. (intransitive) To pass lightly; to glide along in an even, smooth course; to glide along near the surface.
    • 1709, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Criticism, London: Printed for W. Lewis […], published 1711, OCLC 15810849 ↗:
      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.
    • 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.
    • 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 steal money from a business before the transaction has been recorded, thus avoiding detection.
    • 2006, Herbert Snyder, Small Change, Big Problems (page 48)
      Obviously, the longer cash sits around before being recorded, the more likely it is that a skimming fraud will occur.
    • 2009, Tracy L. Coenen, Expert Fraud Investigation: A Step-by-Step Guide (page 109)
      […] take this money without entering anything into the record-keeping system, thereby accomplishing a theft by skimming.
  12. To surreptitiously scan a payment card in order to obtain its information for fraudulent purposes.
  13. (intransitive) To become coated over.
Translations Translations
  • French: faire des ricochets
  • German: (generally understood) springen lassen; hüpfen lassen; (northern and central Germany) flitschen, titschen; (Bavaria, Austria) flippen, platteln; (Switzerland) schiefern
  • Russian: пуска́ть бли́нчики
  • Spanish: rebotar
Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • French: écrémer
  • Italian: scremare, spannare
  • Russian: снима́ть
  • Spanish: desnatar

skim (not comparable)

  1. (of milk) Having lowered fat content.
  • Italian: scremato
  • Portuguese: magro (Portugal), desnatado (Brazil)
  • Spanish: descremado


  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.
  5. Theft of money from a business before the transaction has been recorded, thus avoiding detection.
    • 1989, United States. Congress. House. Committee on Government Operations. Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Waste, Fraud, and Abuse at Federally Funded Wastewater Treatment Construction Projects (volume 4)
      This potential is further increased by the ease of passing on the costs of corruption and racketeering to consumers; a skim of only one percent of a construction project can amount to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

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