Idioms: Down a Rabbit Hole


John Tenniel’s classic illustration of Alice and the White Rabbit


Down the Rabbit Hole” is the title of the first chapter in Lewis Carroll’s classic absurdist fairy tale, “Alice in Wonderland.” On the first page, Alice is sitting dreamily beside a riverbank when suddenly a white rabbit runs by. Noticing that the rabbit is not only talking to itself, but checking the time on a pocket watch, she burns with curiosity and runs after it. It goes down a rabbit hole, and “in another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”

After a while, “down a rabbit hole” or “down the rabbit hole” began to refer to the beginning of a bizarre, surreal, disorienting, or perspective-stretching adventure, usually mental or subjective, from which return is difficult or impossible. Like Alice diving into the unknown after the White Rabbit, “going down a rabbit hole” is an experience that turns your normal sense of reality upside-down and makes you question what you thought you knew for certain. Once you go down a rabbit hole, there is no going back.


“The young artist ran away to the big city, hoping to find a community that would take her down a rabbit hole from which she’d never return.”

“Doing LSD can take you down the rabbit hole.”

“To attempt to truly understand economics is to throw yourself down a very deep rabbit hole.”

“You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
– Morpheus, from The Matrix