tip of the iceberg


a large floating mass of ice, detached from a glacier and carried out to sea.
Informal. an emotionally cold person.
Australian Informal. a person who swims or surfs regularly in winter.
tip of the iceberg, the first hint or revelation of something larger or more complex: The new evidence in the case is just the tip of the iceberg.

1765–75; half Anglicization, half adoption of Dutch ijsberg ice mountain; cognate with German Eisberg, Swedish isberg

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World English Dictionary
iceberg (ˈaɪsbɜːɡ)
1.  a large mass of ice floating in the sea, esp a mass that has broken off a polar glacier
2.  tip of the iceberg the small visible part of something, esp a problem or difficulty, that is much larger
3.  slang chiefly (US) a person considered to have a cold or reserved manner
[C18: probably part translation of Middle Dutch ijsberg ice mountain; compare Norwegian isberg]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1774, partial loan-transl. of Du. ijsberg, lit. "ice mountain," from ijs "ice" + berg "mountain." An earlier term was sea-hill (1694). Phrase tip of the iceberg, in a figurative sense, first recorded 1963.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
iceberg   (īs'bûrg')  Pronunciation Key 

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A massive body of floating ice that has broken away from a glacier or ice field. Most of an iceberg lies underwater, but because ice is not as dense as water, about one ninth of it remains above the surface.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

tip of the iceberg definition

Only a hint or suggestion of a much larger or more complex issue or problem: “The money missing from petty cash was only the tip of the iceberg of financial mismanagement.” This phrase alludes to the fact that the bulk of a floating iceberg is concealed beneath the water, leaving only a small portion, its tip, visible above.

iceberg definition

A large piece of ice that has broken away from a glacier at the shore and floated out to sea.

Note: Most of the ice in an iceberg is underwater, leaving only the “tip of the iceberg” visible — a fact that is often alluded to in discussions of subjects in which the most important aspects are hidden from view.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

tip of the iceberg

Superficial evidence of a much larger problem, as in Laying off a hundred workers is only the tip of the iceberg. This idiom alludes to the structure of an iceberg, most of whose bulk lies underwater. [Mid-1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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