First law of holes

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Photo of a backhoe that is over fifty percent submerged in a large hole that it dug in a peat bog before falling in.
A backhoe that is in a hole and has stopped digging

The first law of holes is a proverb attributed to British politician Denis Healey.[1][2] It states,

"If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."[1][2]

The meaning behind this proverb is that if you find yourself in an untenable position you should stop and change tack, rather than carry on exacerbating it. It has been cited numerous times by other politicians and in books.[3]


  1. ^ a b Apperson, George Latimer (2006). The Wordsworth dictionary of proverbs. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. p. 283. ISBN 978-1840223118. 
  2. ^ a b "Interview: Denis Healey; Healey's First law of holes is to stop digging". New Statesman 9. 8 November 1986. 
  3. ^ The Spectator (1 Dec 2001). "When you are in a hole, stop digging". Retrieved 28 Jun 2012. 

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