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skim the surface (of something)
To do, engage with, or understand something to only a minimal or superficial degree. I know you feel like you know everything about philosophy now, but this introductory course only skims the surface. Jack never felt satisfied devoting his time and attention to one thing, so instead he's skimmed the surface of a number of hobbies and interests.
skim over something
1. Lit. to glide across something. The sailboat skimmed over the waves like a bird. The bird skimmed over the treetops, darting and dodging.
2. Fig. to go over or review something hastily. I just skimmed over the material and still got an A on the test! Please skim over chapter four for Thursday.
skim something off (of) somethingand skim something off
1. Lit. to scoop something off the surface of something. (Of is usually retained before pronouns.) The cook skimmed the fat off the stew. The cook skimmed off the fat.
2. Fig. to remove a portion of something of value, such as money, from an account. (Of is usually retained before pronouns.) The auditor was skimming a few dollars a day off the bank's cash flow. Kelly skimmed off a few dollars each day.
skim through something
to go through something hastily; to read through something hastily. She skimmed through the catalogs, looking for a nice gift for Gary. I will skim through your manuscript and see whether it looks promising.
skim off somethingalso skim something off
to take something valuable The colleges with very high standards skim off the best high school graduates. State and local governments skim tax money off the company's profits.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of skim off ( to remove something floating on a liquid)
1. To remove some floating matter from a liquid: They use a net to skim the cranberries off the surface. They skim off the dross before pouring the metal into molds.
2. To appropriate some money illegally or dishonestly: The dictator skimmed off over $1 million from international donations and deposited it in personal bank accounts. The company was skimming money off its employees' paychecks and using it to cover losses.
To read or consider something superficially and quickly: I skimmed over the reading assignment because I didn't have time to read it carefully.
To go through some reading material quickly or superficially: I skimmed through the movie listings to see what was playing.