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See more synonyms for scum on Thesaurus.com
  1. a film or layer of foul or extraneous matter that forms on the surface of a liquid.
  2. refuse or offscourings.
  3. a low, worthless, or evil person.
  4. such persons collectively; riffraff; dregs.
  5. scoria(def 1).
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verb (used with object), scummed, scum·ming.
  1. to remove the scum from.
  2. to remove as scum.
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verb (used without object), scummed, scum·ming.
  1. to form scum; become covered with scum.
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Origin of scum

1200–50; Middle English scume < Middle Dutch schūme (Dutch schuim) foam; cognate with German Schaum foam
Related formsscum·less, adjectivescum·like, adjectiveun·scummed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for scum

froth, residue, crust, dross, spume, waste, algae, film, scruff, proletariat, vermin, riffraff, dregs, mass, rubbish, rabble, mob, trash, lowest

Examples from the Web for scum

Historical Examples of scum

  • Scum from both sides, just out like buzzards to pick up what they could.

    Ride Proud, Rebel!

    Andre Alice Norton

  • Scum like you has ter come ter the mark sooner or later, and come yer have.

    Indian and Scout

    F. S. Brereton

  • "Scum of the earth, most of them," he said, his plain face glowing.

    The Street of Seven Stars

    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • Scum it off with your spoon, and lay it in anotherPage 117 dish.

  • On Scum exist the lowest conditions of life found in any stellar world.

    Life in a Thousand Worlds

    William Shuler Harris

British Dictionary definitions for scum


  1. a layer of impure matter that forms on the surface of a liquid, often as the result of boiling or fermentation
  2. the greenish film of algae and similar vegetation surface of a stagnant pond
  3. Also called: dross, scruff the skin of oxides or impurities on the surface of a molten metal
  4. waste matter
  5. a worthless person or group of people
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verb scums, scumming or scummed
  1. (tr) to remove scum from
  2. (intr) rare to form a layer of or become covered with scum
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Derived Formsscumlike, adjectivescummer, noun

Word Origin for scum

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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper