A system and method for indexing an audio stream for subsequent information retrieval and for skimming, gisting, and summarizing the audio stream includes using special audio prefiltering such that only relevant speech segments that are generated by a speech recognition engine are indexed. Specific indexing features are disclosed that improve the precision and recall of an information retrieval system used after indexing for word spotting. The invention includes rendering the audio stream into intervals, with each interval including one or more segments. For each segment of an interval it is determined whether the segment exhibits one or more predetermined audio features such as a particular range of zero crossing rates, a particular range of energy, and a particular range of spectral energy concentration. The audio features are heuristically determined to represent respective audio events including silence, music, speech, and speech on music. Also, it is determined whether a group of intervals matches a heuristically predefined meta pattern such as continuous uninterrupted speech, concluding ideas, hesitations and emphasis in speech, and so on, and the audio stream is then indexed based on the interval classification and meta pattern matching, with only relevant features being indexed to improve subsequent precision of information retrieval. Also, alternatives for longer terms generated by the speech recognition engine are indexed along with respective weights, to improve subsequent recall.