I am looking for phrases that would be similar in meaning to 'tip of the iceberg,' but has a positive connotation. My understanding is that 'tip of the iceberg' has a negative "hidden" connotation.

The phrase I am looking for is going to be used in the paragraph below:

Over the last few decades, robotics research has made considerable
strides towards solving hard robotics problems such as navigating
unknown environments, recognizing and manipulating objects, and using
natural language to interact. These advances have resulted in some
interesting robotic applications, ranging from autonomous vacuum
cleaners and self-parking cars to personal software assistants. Yet, I
believe these applications are just the tip of the iceberg in a whole
new wave of personal robotics applications to hit the marketplace.

  • 3
    You could settle for just the beginning of if you don't want imagery. In context, dawn, or first green shoots, for example, are common metaphors. Nov 25 '11 at 14:43
  • 6
    On another note, I'd avoid mixing the metaphors of icebergs and waves.
    – user13141
    Nov 25 '11 at 14:50
  • 3
    I don't perceive "tip of the iceberg" as negative. But the phrase "leading edge" means something close to what you want, and combines meaningfully rather than inharmoniously with the wave metaphor. Nov 25 '11 at 15:11
  • @Peter. I agree it fits much nicer. Could you like to add it as an answer? I would like to mark your answer as the correct one.
    – Peretz
    Nov 25 '11 at 15:49

I don't perceive "tip of the iceberg" as negative. However, as onomatomaniak comments, in your paragraph this metaphor mixes rather inharmoniously with the metaphor "whole new wave".

The phrase "leading edge" doesn't mean the same thing as "tip of the iceberg"; "leading edge" has a connotation of newness that "tip of the iceberg" does not. However, "leading edge" fits your intended meaning very well, and combines meaningfully with the "wave" metaphor.

  • 1
    Disagree about the common use of "tip of the iceberg": it is usually around bad news such as "we found out that a problem was bigger/went deeper than we first thought" (example the News International hacking scandals). The Iceberg is an analogy to the fact that only a small amount of the problem is apparent at first and when you go beneath the surface, you see the whole scale of the thing. Nov 25 '11 at 16:41

How about 'only begin to scratch the surface'?

  • Nothing negative there (unless you're talking about CDs). Of course, the 'new wave ...' would then be incongruous. May 13 '14 at 10:24

I believe these applications herald a whole new wave of personal robotics applications.

  • It's a good word in many contexts, but I think OP's preceding "Yet" and "just" kinda rule out herald here. Which is why you discarded them in your rewrite of the sentence, obviously. Nov 25 '11 at 14:46
  • I'm a compulsive editor.
    – Ed Guiness
    Nov 25 '11 at 14:51

I believe these applications are just the forerunners of a whole new wave of personal robotics applications.


"Just the beginning of" is the simplest way to say it.


I believe these applications are at the crest of a whole new wave of...

  • 1
    At the crest sounds like at the best or optimal, not at the very beginning.
    – Daniel
    Mar 28 '12 at 15:09

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