scratch the surface (of something)

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scratch 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 scratches the surface. Jack never felt satisfied devoting his time and attention to one thing, so instead he's scratched the surface of a number of hobbies and interests.
See also: scratch, surface
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

scratch the surface

 
1. Lit. to scratch something just on the surface, not extending the mark below the finish into the wood, stone, marble, below. There is no serious damage done to the bench. You only scratched the surface.
2. Fig. to just begin to find out about something; to examine only the superficial aspects of something. The investigation of the governor's staff revealed some suspicious dealing. It is thought that the investigators have just scratched the surface. We don't know how bad the problem is. We've only scratched the surface.
See also: scratch, surface
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

scratch the surface

Investigate or treat something superficially, as in This feed-the-hungry program only scratches the surface of the problem, or Her survey course barely scratches the surface of economic history. This metaphoric term transfers shallow markings made in a stone or other material to a shallow treatment of a subject or issue. [Early 1900s]
See also: scratch, surface
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

scratch the surface

COMMON If you only scratch the surface of something, you deal with or benefit from a very small part of something much bigger. The council have managed to provide housing for over ten thousand homeless people but they say they have only scratched the surface of the problem. At 13, her potential as a player is enormous and she has only scratched the surface of what she can do.
See also: scratch, surface
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

scratch the surface

1 deal with a matter only in the most superficial way. 2 initiate the briefest investigation to discover something concealed.
See also: scratch, surface
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

scratch the ˈsurface (of something)

deal with, understand, or find out about only a small part of a subject or problem: This report only scratches the surface of the problem. OPPOSITE: get to the bottom of something
See also: scratch, surface
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

scratch the surface

To investigate or treat something in superficial or preliminary fashion.
See also: scratch, surface
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

scratch the surface, to

To perform a task or investigate something superficially. This term comes from agriculture, where merely scratching the surface of the earth does not adequately prepare the soil for planting. It was transferred to other activities by the early 1900s. “You haven’t seen anything. They didn’t scratch the surface here,” wrote Lillian Hellman (Days to Come, 1936).
See also: scratch, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
That doesn't even scratch the surface of what prospective female teachers in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo endure.
Such is the size of the problem in the UK that it seEms critical mass has now been reached and it is beyond our police and authorities to even scratch the surface of dealing with the problem.
Jake Molloy, of the RMT union, said: "I am sure I am talking on behalf of many offshore workers when I say these figures do not even scratch the surface of reality."
But visitors to a motor launch in London had a unique opportunity to scratch the surface of something altogether different - the world's first "scratch car-d".
As we enter into 2007, insurers have only begun to scratch the surface of unlocking value from claims business-process outsourcing.
SCRATCH the surface of toff David Cameron's Tories and an unpleasant party lurks beneath the glossy image.
Scratch the surface of many audit plans and you'll find predictable elements that someone bent on fraud can anticipate and foil.
But the two of them are just beginning to scratch the surface of a lethal conspiracy between greedy corporate executives, the Russian Mafia, and Afghani terrorists.
And these examples only scratch the surface of a disturbing subculture ruled by out-of-control peer pressure and the lust for prestige.
But the article didn't even scratch the surface of what life was really like for the Hudsons.
His main points: Collaborate, go to the philanthropists and foundations to beg funds, and don't be put off by any barriers, including the "mountain of work" and the fact "you just kind of scratch the surface of the community's needs."
These examples just scratch the surface of the full range of available options.
The first single "Out of My Heart (Into Your Head)" is as catchy and sensitive as the popular "Back Here." These boys have only just begun to scratch the surface of their stardom.
"The latest show at Cologne's Museum of Applied Arts (through April 14) offers 40 `milestones' of robot history, from a prosthetic arm to a sausage-sorter, yet can do little more than scratch the surface of a theme that fascinated mankind long before the word `robota' was coined in 1921 by the Czech author Karel Capek....