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siphon something off(from something)
1. Lit. to suck or draw a liquid off from something. Harry siphoned the cream off the milk. He siphoned off the cream.
2. Fig. to embezzle or steal something a little at a time. The teller had been siphoning money off for years. she siphoned off a few dollars from the collection every week or so.
siphon off somethingalso siphon something off
to take something that was intended for someone or something else The dictator and his close friends siphoned off up to 20 percent of the annual budget. The donated food was mostly siphoned off and sold, while the needy got almost nothing.
Usage notes: sometimes used without off: A third-party candidate siphoned southern support. She siphoned more than $15,000 from a patient's trust fund.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of siphon (a tube used to move liquid from one container to another)
1. To draw off or convey something through or as if through a siphon: I used a tube to siphon off the excess water in the fish tank. The lawn mower ran out of gas, so we siphoned some off from the car's gas tank.
2. To appropriate some money illegally or dishonestly: The managers were siphoning off money from the foundation and putting it into secret accounts. The dictator siphoned millions of dollars off and hid the money in private bank accounts.