Catch Word # 22 – The Tip of the Iceberg

We, in Montreal, hope this snowy weather is not just the tip of the iceberg! This expression, the tip of the iceberg can be used to talk about many other things than the weather. We often use the expression when there is some kind of problem. Do you know this expression? If not, check out this episode.


Expressions included in the learning materialsiceberg

  • The tip of the iceberg
  • The least of my problems / The least of my worries
  • Layoffs/to be laid off/to get laid off
  • To lose your job / to be fired
  • Bankruptcy
  • How else could we … ?

Sample transcript

Jessie: So, on to today’s expression, which is “the tip of the iceberg.”

Harp: “The tip of the iceberg.

Jessie: I like this expression a lot.

Harp: Yeah, “the tip of the iceberg,” it’s a good expression.

Jessie: So “the tip of the iceberg” generally means that something is just a small part of a larger situation or problem.

Harp: Exactly.

Jessie: So, we almost always use this to talk about something negative, like a problem, but sometimes people use it as positive or neutral. An example of a way we might use “tip of the iceberg” as a negative would be to say something like: “The layoffs at the company were just the tip of the iceberg, but soon the entire business went bankrupt.”

Harp: So, when we look at this example, “the layoffs are the tip of the iceberg,” they’re just the small part of the problem.

Jessie: Right, maybe only one or two people lost their jobs.

Harp: Exactly! But when the business goes bankrupt, that’s the “whole iceberg,” the whole problem is that the whole company – everyone – loses their jobs.

Jessie: Exactly! Maybe if you were talking about a couple who weren’t getting along well, you could say the fight they had last night was just the tip of the iceberg, but really they don’t love each other anymore.


english PodcastAudio/Learning Materials: Culips