scratch the surface, to

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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
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
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
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.
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.
Only time will tell, but I believe Coney Island has only begun to scratch the surface.
"We're just starting to scratch the surface. The good news is we have a structure, [with] several pilot [programs] to expand it.
Russell says he and his colleagues have only begun to scratch the surface with their work on the functions of molecular machines.
But,overall, there was too much niceness and not nearly enough nastiness, with the whole exercise only appearing to scratch the surface of their relationship of many layers.
How much force does it take to scratch the surface?
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.
"We've just started to scratch the surface," Ernst said, and "begun searching for the common problems in other areas in tandem with our JCAA partners.
But from a European perspective, this "voyeurism of the inside," as Horowitz's working method is called in the exhibition literature, barely seems to scratch the surface.
'I've been married a long time, 21 years, and I'm just starting to scratch the surface of what women really want.
This has been intriguing and most educational, yet we have only begun to scratch the surface of the huge world of possibilities.
I am just starting to scratch the surface of what makes me happy, and it has taken me a while to admit that acting like a child and a jerk is fun - Leonardo DiCaprio