In the realm of riddles and paradoxes, there’s a classic brain-teaser that goes like this: “What gets bigger the more you take away?” At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive; after all, the act of taking away typically implies making something smaller. However, this paradox challenges our perception and encourages us to think outside the box. In this article, we’ll explore the answer to this riddle and delve into the fascinating concepts it represents.

    The Answer: A Hole

    The answer to the riddle, “What gets bigger the more you take away?” is a “hole.” This seemingly simple word choice holds the key to unraveling the paradox. The more you remove material or substance from a particular area, the larger the empty space or void becomes – that’s the essence of a hole.

    Understanding the Paradox

    The paradox lies in the unconventional way we tend to think about size and dimensions. When we think of something getting “bigger,” our minds typically associate it with the addition or accumulation of matter, not the removal of it. However, this riddle challenges us to shift our perspective and consider the idea that space itself can expand as matter is subtracted.

    This paradox also touches upon the concept of negative space. In art, design, and philosophy, negative space refers to the empty or undefined areas surrounding or within an object or image. It’s often used to create balance, contrast, and visual interest. In the context of the riddle, the more you take away, the larger the negative space (or hole) becomes.

    Real-World Examples

    To grasp the concept more clearly, consider some real-world examples where the paradox of something getting bigger by taking away is readily apparent:

    Digging a Hole: If you start digging a hole in the ground, the hole gets deeper and larger as you remove more soil. In this case, the hole represents the space you’ve created by taking away material.

    Cavity in a Tooth: In dentistry, a cavity represents a hole or void in a tooth caused by decay. As the decay is removed, the hole or cavity can grow larger, illustrating the concept.

    Carving Statues: When a sculptor carves a statue from a block of stone or wood, they remove material to reveal the form within. The more material they take away, the more the sculpture’s shape and size become apparent.

    Philosophical and Mathematical Implications

    The paradox of what gets bigger the more you take away raises intriguing philosophical and mathematical questions:

    Concept of Infinity: In mathematics, the paradox touches upon the concept of infinity. It demonstrates that, in theory, you can continue removing material from a space indefinitely, causing it to expand infinitely.

    Zeno’s Paradox: The riddle also has connections to Zeno’s Paradox, a philosophical puzzle that deals with the infinite divisibility of space and time. Zeno’s Paradox suggests that motion and change are impossible because, at any given moment, an object must occupy a single point. However, as we break down space or time into smaller and smaller intervals, we find that it’s possible to move and change, challenging our intuitive understanding.


    The paradox of what gets bigger the more you take away is a thought-provoking riddle that challenges our conventional way of thinking about size and space. It highlights the concept of negative space and illustrates that removing material from a particular area can lead to the expansion of empty space or a “hole.”

    While it may initially appear as a playful linguistic trick, this riddle has far-reaching implications in philosophy and mathematics. It prompts us to consider the nature of infinity, the divisibility of space and time, and the concept of negative space in art and design.

    Ultimately, this paradox serves as a reminder that our perceptions and intuitions can be challenged and expanded through creative and unconventional thinking. It encourages us to look beyond the surface and explore the depths of our understanding, even when faced with seemingly contradictory ideas.