To skim is to remove something from the surface of a liquid. Some cooks skim the fat off of the top of their chicken noodle soup, others skim the cream off milk to make skim (or skimmed) milk.

Cream is what you skim off the surface of milk, and if you don't like the whipped version, you might skim it from your hot chocolate. Another way to use the word skim is to mean "read quickly," like when you skim the newspaper, catching just the headlines as you search for the comics section. Skim has an Old French root, escumer, "remove scum," from escume, "scum." The "glance through a book" meaning came later, in the late 1700’s.

Definitions of skim
  1. verb
    remove from the surface
    synonyms: cream, cream off, skim off
    see moresee less
    type of:
    remove, take, take away, withdraw
    remove something concrete, as by lifting, pushing, or taking off, or remove something abstract
  2. verb
    cause to skip over a surface
    synonyms: skip, skitter
    see moresee less
    type of:
    propel through the air
  3. verb
    coat (a liquid) with a layer
    see moresee less
    type of:
    coat, surface
    put a coat on; cover the surface of; furnish with a surface
  4. noun
    a thin layer covering the surface of a liquid
    “there was a thin skim of oil on the water”
    see moresee less
    type of:
    cover, covering, natural covering
    a natural object that covers or envelops
  5. adjective
    used of milk and milk products from which the cream has been removed
    “yogurt made with skim milk”
    “she can drink skimmed milk but should avoid butter”
    synonyms: skimmed
    fat-free, fatless, nonfat
    without fat or fat solids
  6. verb
    examine hastily
    synonyms: glance over, rake, run down, scan
    see moresee less
    type of:
    examine, see
    observe, check out, and look over carefully or inspect
  7. verb
    read superficially
    synonyms: skim over
    see moresee less
    type of:
    interpret something that is written or printed
  8. noun
    reading or glancing through quickly
    synonyms: skimming
    see moresee less
    type of:
    the cognitive process of understanding a written linguistic message
  9. verb
    move or pass swiftly and lightly over the surface of
    synonyms: skim over
    see moresee less
    type of:
    make physical contact with, come in contact with
  10. verb
    travel on the surface of water
    synonyms: plane
    see moresee less
    ride on an aquaplane
    rise up onto a thin film of water between the tires and road so that there is no more contact with the road
    type of:
    move smoothly and effortlessly
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week