What Does More than Meets the Eye Mean?

More Than Meets the Eye Meaning

Definition: Something is more complex than what is immediately apparent.

Origin of More Than Meets the Eye

This expression first appeared in the 1800s. The meets the eye portion of this idiom refers to that which a person can see from observing with his or her eyes.

People rely on making quick judgments in order to go about their lives in an efficient manner. However, this means that they sometimes misjudge a situation, or that they miss important information that isn’t easy to see at first glance. This phrase is ideal for describing situations of that nature.

People often use this idiom when they want others to know that there is hidden depth to an issue.

A similar phrase is only the tip of the iceberg.

Examples of More Than Meets the Eye

more than what meets the eyeHere is an example that involves two college students discussing something that one of them observed.

Robin: I saw you fighting with your girlfriend. I think you need to be kinder to her.

Harry: What makes you think you know what’s going on with my girlfriend and me?

Robin: I saw the fight the two of you were having. I saw you talking to her, and I saw that she immediately started crying. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you said something awful to her.

Harry: Well, there’s more than what meets the eye. What you don’t know is that her grandmother just died. She had just told me, and I was trying to let her know that it was sad that her grandma died, but at least she knew that her grandmother loved her. At least her grandmother died being proud of her. She was crying because of that, not because I hurt her feelings.

Robin: Oh. Well now I feel like a jerk. I shouldn’t have jumped to assumptions.

Harry: It’s okay. I understand why you thought what you did.

more than that meets the eyeIn this dialogue, two coworkers are discussing the cleaning crew at their place of employment.

Mal: I think that housekeeping lady Tiffany stole from me! I saw her going through my bag. I’m going to have her fired!

Xiomara: Wait! There’s more than that meets the eye to that situation. I gave Tiffany a small present to hide in your bag while I tried to distract you. I didn’t want to tell you because I wanted to surprise you for your birthday.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about diabetes and how some people do not tell their doctors about their problems. This excerpt is about long-distance medical help patients can get.

  • What’s the point of a long-distance relationship? More than meets the eye. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is about movie critics who think a particular director has shallow movies.

  • While critics have dismissed Bay’s flicks about battling robots as not having more than meets the eye, the saga has grossed $3.8 billion worldwide at the box office. –New York Daily News


The expression more than meets the eye means involving more facts or nuances than one can see at first glance.