scratch the surface

Idioms & Phrases

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]

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