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[skuhm] /skʌm/
a film or layer of foul or extraneous matter that forms on the surface of a liquid.
refuse or offscourings.
a low, worthless, or evil person.
such persons collectively; riffraff; dregs.
scoria (def 1).
verb (used with object), scummed, scumming.
to remove the scum from.
to remove as scum.
verb (used without object), scummed, scumming.
to form scum; become covered with scum.
Origin of scum
1200-50; Middle English scume < Middle Dutch schūme (Dutch schuim) foam; cognate with German Schaum foam
Related forms
scumless, adjective
scumlike, adjective
unscummed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for scum
Historical Examples
  • The home missions class furnished the inspiration for it, and called it "scum o' the Earth," an impromptu immigration pageant.

    John Wesley, Jr. Dan B. Brummitt
  • scum like you has ter come ter the mark sooner or later, and come yer have.

    Indian and Scout F. S. Brereton
  • scum from both sides, just out like buzzards to pick up what they could.

    Ride Proud, Rebel! Andre Alice Norton
  • "scum of the earth, most of them," he said, his plain face glowing.

    The Street of Seven Stars Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • It was a fatal day for scum when its mad inhabitants blew out the last of the candles that had promised to give them light.

    Life in a Thousand Worlds William Shuler Harris
  • On scum exist the lowest conditions of life found in any stellar world.

    Life in a Thousand Worlds William Shuler Harris
  • scum it off with your spoon, and lay it in anotherPage 117 dish.

  • Let the libertine of our world go to the world of scum where he belongs, or rise to the dignity of man whose image he bears.

    Life in a Thousand Worlds William Shuler Harris
  • The inhabitants of scum are divided into many warring tribes, and it is fearful to see the conflicts that take place.

    Life in a Thousand Worlds William Shuler Harris
  • The nobler people of scum are banding together with the avowed purpose of bringing back the light of culture and refinement.

    Life in a Thousand Worlds William Shuler Harris
British Dictionary definitions for scum


a layer of impure matter that forms on the surface of a liquid, often as the result of boiling or fermentation
the greenish film of algae and similar vegetation surface of a stagnant pond
Also called dross, scruff. the skin of oxides or impurities on the surface of a molten metal
waste matter
a worthless person or group of people
verb scums, scumming, scummed
(transitive) to remove scum from
(intransitive) (rare) to form a layer of or become covered with scum
Derived Forms
scumlike, adjective
scummer, noun
Word Origin
C13: of Germanic origin; related to Old High German scūm, Middle Dutch schūm, Old French escume; see skim
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for scum

early 14c. (implied in scummer "shallow ladle for removing scum"), from Middle Dutch schume "foam, froth," from Proto-Germanic *skuma- (cf. Old Norse skum, Old High German scum, German Schaum "foam, froth"), perhaps from PIE root *(s)keu- "to cover, conceal" (see hide (n.1)).

Sense deteriorated from "thin layer atop liquid" to "film of dirt," then just "dirt." Meaning "lowest class of humanity" is 1580s; scum of the Earth is from 1712. Adopted in Romanic, cf. Old French escume, Modern French écume, Spanish escuma, Italian schiuma.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for scum



  1. Semen; come (1960s+)
  2. A despicable person
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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