Intermediate+ Word of the Day: rim

rim (noun, verb) /rɪm/ LISTEN

A rim is the outer edge or border of something, especially of a circular object such as a glass, bowl, vase, or pan. Any edge or frame added to a circular object for decoration or other purposes is also a rim and so is the outer circle of a wheel, attached to the hub by spokes. In basketball, the rim is the metal ring from which the net is suspended to form the basket. As a verb, to rim means ‘to furnish with a rim,’ in this sense it is often passive, and, in sports, it is what the ball does, in golf, when it rolls around the edge of a hole without going in, or when it rolls around the rim of the basket in basketball.

Example sentences

  • I forgot to watch the milk and it boiled over the rim of the pan.
  • The potter added an ornate rim to the vase.
  • Robert fitted the tire to the rim of the wheel.
  • The player took a shot at the basket, but the ball bounced off the rim.
  • The bowl was rimmed with gold leaf.
  • The golfer tried a putt, but the ball rimmed the hole.
  • The team needed to score, but the ball rimmed the basket.

In pop culture

A rimshot is a stroke on a snare drum where the stick hits the rim and the head of the drum at the same time. You can listen to Erykah Badu’s song “Rimshot” here:

And, if you’d like to know what a rimshot looks and sounds like, you can see and hear one in this short clip:

Did you know?

To rim can also mean ‘to coat or encrust the rim of a glass,’ as you might do with cocktails. You can see glasses that have been rimmed in the picture accompanying this recipe.


Rim dates back to before the year 1150. The Old and Middle English adjective –rima originally meant ‘edge, border, verge or coast.’ All the early examples we have found are as part of compounds like særima (seashore) and dægrima (literally ‘rim of the day,’ in other words, ‘dawn’). Its origin is unknown. Rim is related to the Old Norse rimi or rime (a raised strip of land), and the Old Frisian rim (edge), but those are the only two related words that have been found. The verb comes from the noun and, meaning ‘to furnish with a rim,’ dates back to the late 18th century. The sports senses are from the early 20th century.

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