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nodding acquaintance

a slight, incomplete, or superficial knowledge (of something or someone):
He had only a nodding acquaintance with Italian and didn't trust it to get him through the tour. Although we were neighbors for several years, we had only a nodding acquaintance.
a person with whom one is only slightly acquainted:
I don't really know what he's like—he's only a nodding acquaintance.
Origin of nodding acquaintance
1860-65 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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nodding acquaintance

Superficial knowledge of someone or something, as in I have a nodding acquaintance with the company president, or She has a nodding acquaintance with that software program. This expression alludes to knowing someone just well enough to nod or bow upon meeting him or her. “Early 1800s]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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