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1. Literally, to scoop or scrape something off the surface of something, especially a liquid. A noun or pronoun can be used between "skim" and "off." Be sure to skim off the fatty foam as your stew cooks. Please use the net to skim leaves and other debris off the surface of the pool each morning.
2. By extension, to take funds, especially illegally or deceitfully, from another source in small increments. A noun or pronoun can be used between "skim" and "off." The CEO has been accused of skimming money off from his employees' pensions funds to pay for his personal trips around the world. The sales assistant skimmed off money from the till for years before she was finally caught.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.