rabbit hole

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Alternative forms[edit]


rabbit +‎ hole. Extended senses reference Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where Alice travels down a rabbit hole into a bizarre world.


rabbit hole (plural rabbit holes)

  1. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see rabbit,‎ hole. (The entrance to) a rabbit warren or burrow.
    • 1866, Lewis Carroll, chapter 1, in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
      The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.
    • 1898, H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, London: William Heinemann, page 83:
      As the limber gunners went to the rear, his horse trod in a rabbit-hole and came down, throwing him into a depression of the ground.
  2. (usually with article) A bizarre world, where everyday rules do not apply.
  3. (usually with article) A way into such a world.
    Synonym: looking-glass
    These mushrooms will take you down the rabbit hole, man.
    • 1999, The Wachowskis, The Matrix, spoken by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), 0:29:05 from the start:
      You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
    • 2012, Linda Hoy, The Effect, John Hunt Publishing, →ISBN, page vii:
      Tumbling down the rabbit hole, she encountered a whole new level of existence where the laws of physics were turned upside down, shaken inside out and taken to the cleaners.
  4. (usually with article) (Can we verify(+) this sense?) Following YouTube channels toward extremism.
    • 2022, Max Fisher, The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World, Little, Brown, →ISBN, page 202:
      Jonas Kaiser peered down his first YouTube rabbit hole on a break between research sessions for a PhD that, at first, had little to do with American social media.
    • 2022, Max Fisher, The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World, Little, Brown, →ISBN, page 214:
      She had fallen into what is known as the rabbit hole. The term had once described any evening or afternoon spent following YouTube's recommendations wherever they led. Maybe you pulled up a favorite comedy clip, then leaned back as the system took you through the comedian's hits. But by 2018, after [YouTube's] Reinforce system has been implemented, "rabbit hole" increasingly referred to following political YouTube channels toward extremism.
  5. (by extension) A time-consuming tangent or detour, often one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.
    I'm also a fan of a really obscure book series, but that's a rabbit hole that we won't get into.
    While writing my paper, my research went down several rabbit holes that were only marginally related and wasted a lot of my time.
    Synonym: wild-goose chase
    • 2017, Judith Aston, Sandra Gaudenzi, Mandy Rose, I-Docs: The Evolving Practices of Interactive Documentary, →ISBN:
      My point is not to go down the rabbit hole of deconstructing the term documentary, []
    • 2018, GAPS Stories, Chelsea Green Publishing, →ISBN:
      I felt pretty strongly that non-food supplements would be a complicated, expensive rabbit hole that rarely cure children fully of anxiety / autism / etc. (especially in the absence of enough nourishing food).
  6. (gaming) The initial clue that leads to an alternate reality game.
    Synonym: trailhead