English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I was explaining that something is the "tip of the iceberg". I then wanted to explain what the other bit of the iceberg consisted of.

What's the bit of the iceberg that is not the tip? Or should I just give up on this metaphor?

share|improve this question
The underwater portion? – CopperKettle Feb 28 '14 at 3:46
Hip of the iceberg – ermanen Feb 28 '14 at 3:55
@ermanen: That sounded so promising I checked in Google Books, and Lo! There was a match!. But sadly, it turned out to be an OCR error for tip. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '14 at 4:06
@FumbleFingers: That's why it is not answer unfortunately. I'm trying to introduce a new phrase into the language perhaps. I see that it is used in very few places, one of which is a presentation about disorders of the hip. Whoa! – ermanen Feb 28 '14 at 4:46
Related: What do you call the portion of a glacier that hasn't calved? (Obvious answer: the cow.) – Sven Yargs Feb 28 '14 at 18:31

Erm... since 90% of the iceberg is underwater, that basically is the iceberg. What's the part of your body called that's not your head? It's just your body (with or without the head).

But note the usage in this Wikipedia article which specifically refers to the "underside" of a berg...

Seabed gouging by ice is a process that occurs when floating ice features (typically icebergs and sea ice ridges) drift into shallower areas and their keel comes into contact with the seabed.

Per my comment to another answer, bummock seems "less correct", as the hummock/bummock distinction is specifically associated with ice masses re-formed from pack ice (frozen sea water). Whereas to my mind, an iceberg implies frozen fresh water (bits broken off glaciers, or ice-shelves primarily formed from falling snow).

share|improve this answer

Bummock is the bottom part of the berg and Hummock is the top part.

Here is a good link I found that explains better. I know I saw something on National Geographic channel a few years ago with the names and drought (sp?) measures the bummock.

Now FumbleFingers makes a few points about bummock. Well he is right, kind of. It has various definitions. I don't disagree that one of them is "broken ice under the hummock, forced downward by pressure". What he is describing is a description for an iceberg. Also bummock seems the industry standard (oceanography) to describe the submerged part of froze ice which the user was asking for. As noted in my link above and Susan's link it means the bottom of an iceberg.

As for the use of keel I find it was lazily used in a couple articles. It refers to the bottom of a "boat". In the same articles they referred to the top as a "sail". I think it was more for analogy purposes than giving it an actually name. For sure joe-average-reader wouldn't understand the bummock usage. So I won't say that keel is wrong but it's just a descriptor not the word. We can use the sail/keel analogy for anything floating in any body of water and there is no specificity to icebergs.

share|improve this answer
A link would be nice, so I'll provide it. – medica Feb 28 '14 at 6:25
I suspect that would be draught, which would be practically the only useful measurement for something underwater (Am. draft.). – TimLymington May 15 '15 at 16:49

The underwater portion has no specific name that I can find. I would call it the bulk of the iceberg. I would also feel free to call it the submarinal portion, if needing a name for it.

Since iceberg is an ice mountain, compare: what is the part of the mountain called which is not the peak? If there is such a term (I can't find that, either), I'd say you have your answer. There are many parts of a mountain, including the peak, crest, base, slope, face, and more.

share|improve this answer
+1 for bulk. Although an iceberg may be etymologically an ice mountain, unlike a mountain the peak may be only temporarily so (on a human timescale), so the other terms are equally temporary, which might affect how they can be used. – Chris H Feb 28 '14 at 16:28
Many icebergs are not mountain shaped, but flat on top, especially in the South Seas. – Oldcat Feb 28 '14 at 19:04

"Tip of the iceberg" doesn't appear to be in anyway a scientific term, and is just used idiomatically.

However, the word "iceberg" comes from the Dutch word, ijsberg, meaning ice mountain. Therefore, using mountain terminology may be appropriate here. My personal preference would be the "base of the iceberg".

If that makes it sound more like the very bottom of the iceberg, you may be better off going simply with the "underwater portion". This is the preferred terminology for encylopediae, but doesn't sound as good for a metaphor.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.