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.
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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

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

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

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

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

scratch the surface

To investigate or treat something in superficial or preliminary fashion.
See also: scratch, surface
References in classic literature ?
Could I have hoped to render it worthy of your patronage, the public would at once have seen the propriety of inscribing a work designed to illustrate the domestic antiquities of England, and particularly of our Saxon forefathers, to the learned author of the Essays upon the Horn of King Ulphus, and on the Lands bestowed by him upon the patrimony of St Peter.
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".
It means that when you scratch the surface of something or someone, you find something or someone else beneath.