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Huge cardinal

Huge cardinals (and their variants) were introduced by Kenneth Kunen in 1972 as a very large cardinal axiom. Kenneth Kunen first used them to prove that the consistency of the existence of a huge cardinal implies the consistency of $\text{ZFC}$+”there is a $\omega_2$-saturated $\sigma$-ideal on $\omega_1$”. It is now known that only a Woodin cardinal is needed for this result. However, the consistency of the existence of an $\omega_2$-complete $\omega_3$-saturated $\sigma$-ideal on $\omega_2$, as far as the set theory world is concerned, still requires an almost huge cardinal. (Kanamori, 2009)


Their formulation is similar to that of the formulation of superstrong cardinals. A huge cardinal is to a supercompact cardinal as a superstrong cardinal is to a strong cardinal, more precisely. The definition is part of a generalized phenomenon known as the “double helix”, in which for some large cardinal properties n-$P_0$ and n-$P_1$, n-$P_0$ has less consistency strength than n-$P_1$, which has less consistency strength than (n+1)-$P_0$, and so on. This phenomenon is seen only around the n-fold variants as of modern set theoretic concerns. (Kentaro, 2007)

Although they are very large, there is a first-order definition which is equivalent to n-hugeness, so the $\theta$-th n-huge cardinal is first-order definable whenever $\theta$ is first-order definable. This definition can be seen as a (very strong) strengthening of the first-order definition of measurability.

Elementary embedding definitions

The elementary embedding definitions are somewhat standard. Let $j:V\rightarrow M$ be a nontrivial elementary embedding of $V$ into a transitive class $M$ with critical point $\kappa$. Then:

Ultrahuge cardinals

A cardinal $\kappa$ is $\lambda$-ultrahuge for $\lambda>\kappa$ if there exists a nontrivial elementary embedding $j:V\to M$ for some transitive class $M$ such that $j(\kappa)>\lambda$, $M^{j(\kappa)}\subseteq M$ and $V_{j(\lambda)}\subseteq M$. A cardinal is ultrahuge if it is $\lambda$-ultrahuge for all $\lambda\geq\kappa$. [1] Notice how similar this definition is to the alternative characterization of extendible cardinals. Furthermore, this definition can be extended in the obvious way to define $\lambda$-ultra n-hugeness and ultra n-hugeness, as well as the “almost” variants.

Hyperhuge cardinals

A cardinal $\kappa$ is $\lambda$-hyperhuge for $\lambda>\kappa$ if there exists a nontrivial elementary embedding $j:V\to M$ for some inner model $M$ such that $\mathrm{crit}(j) = \kappa$, $j(\kappa)>\lambda$ and $^{j(\lambda)}M\subseteq M$. A cardinal is hyperhuge if it is $\lambda$-hyperhuge for all $\lambda>\kappa$. (Usuba, 2017; Boney, 2017)

Huge* cardinals

A cardinal $κ$ is $n$-huge* if for some $α > κ$, $\kappa$ is the critical point of an elementary embedding $j : V_α → V_β$ such that $j^n (κ) < α$.(Gitman & Shindler, n.d.)

Hugeness* variant is formulated in a way allowing for a virtual variant consistent with $V=L$: A cardinal $κ$ is virtually $n$-huge* if for some $α > κ$, in a set-forcing extension, $\kappa$ is the critical point of an elementary embedding $j : V_α → V_β$ such that $j^n(κ) < α$.(Gitman & Shindler, n.d.)

Ultrafilter definition

The first-order definition of n-huge is somewhat similar to measurability. Specifically, $\kappa$ is measurable iff there is a nonprincipal $\kappa$-complete ultrafilter, $U$, over $\kappa$. A cardinal $\kappa$ is n-huge with target $\lambda$ iff there is a normal $\kappa$-complete ultrafilter, $U$, over $\mathcal{P}(\lambda)$, and cardinals $\kappa=\lambda_0<\lambda_1<\lambda_2…<\lambda_{n-1}<\lambda_n=\lambda$ such that:

\[\\forall i&lt;n(\\{x\\subseteq\\lambda:\\text{order-type}(x\\cap\\lambda\_{i+1})=\\lambda\_i\\}\\in U)\]

Where $\text{order-type}(X)$ is the order-type of the poset $(X,\in)$. (Kanamori, 2009) $\kappa$ is then super n-huge if for all ordinals $\theta$ there is a $\lambda>\theta$ such that $\kappa$ is n-huge with target $\lambda$, i.e. $\lambda_n$ can be made arbitrarily large. If $j:V\to M$ is such that $M^{j^n(\kappa)}\subseteq M$ (i.e. $j$ witnesses n-hugeness) then there is a ultrafilter $U$ as above such that, for all $k\leq n$, $\lambda_k = j^k(\kappa)$, i.e. it is not only $\lambda=\lambda_n$ that is an iterate of $\kappa$ by $j$; all members of the $\lambda_k$ sequence are.

As an example, $\kappa$ is 1-huge with target $\lambda$ iff there is a normal $\kappa$-complete ultrafilter, $U$, over $\mathcal{P}(\lambda)$ such that $\{x\subseteq\lambda:\text{order-type}(x)=\kappa\}\in U$. The reason why this would be so surprising is that every set $x\subseteq\lambda$ with every set of order-type $\kappa$ would be in the ultrafilter; that is, every set containing $\{x\subseteq\lambda:\text{order-type}(x)=\kappa\}$ as a subset is considered a “large set.”

As for hyperhugeness, the following are equivalent:(Boney, 2017)

Coherent sequence characterization of almost hugeness

$C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge cardinals

(this section from (Bagaria, 2012))

$κ$ is $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge iff it is $m$-huge and $j(κ) ∈ C^{(n)}$ ($C^{(n)}$-huge if it is huge and $j(κ) ∈ C^{(n)}$).

Equivalent definition in terms of normal measures: κ is $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge iff it is uncountable and there is a $κ$-complete normal ultrafilter $U$ over some $P(λ)$ and cardinals $κ = λ_0 < λ_1 < . . . < λ_m = λ$, with $λ_1 ∈ C (n)$ and such that for each $i < m$, $\{x ∈ P(λ) : ot(x ∩ λ i+1 ) = λ i \} ∈ U$.

It follows that “$κ$ is $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge” is $Σ_{n+1}$ expressible.

Every huge cardinal is $C^{(1)}$-huge.

The first $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge cardinal is not $C^{(n+1)}$-$m$-huge, for all $m$ and $n$ greater or equal than $1$. For suppose $κ$ is the least $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge cardinal and $j : V → M$ witnesses that $κ$ is $C^{(n+1)}$-$m$-huge. Then since “x is $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge” is $Σ_{n+1}$ expressible, we have $V_{j(κ)} \models$ “$κ$ is $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge”. Hence, since $(V_{j(κ)})^M = V_{j(κ)}$, $M \models$ “$∃_{δ < j(κ)}(V_{j(κ)} \models$ “δ is huge”$)$”. By elementarity, there is a $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge cardinal less than $κ$ in $V$ – contradiction.

Assuming $\mathrm{I3}(κ, δ)$, if $δ$ is a limit cardinal (instead of a successor of a limit cardinal – Kunen’s Theorem excludes other cases), it is equal to $sup\{j^m(κ) : m ∈ ω\}$ where $j$ is the elementary embedding. Then $κ$ and $j^m(κ)$ are $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge (inter alia) in $V_δ$, for all $n$ and $m$.

If $κ$ is $C^{(n)}$-$\mathrm{I3}$, then it is $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge, for all $m$, and there is a normal ultrafilter $\mathcal{U}$ over $κ$ such that

$\{α < κ : α$ is $C^{(n)}$-$m$-huge for every $m\} ∈ \mathcal{U}$.

Consistency strength and size

Hugeness exhibits a phenomenon associated with similarly defined large cardinals (the n-fold variants) known as the double helix. This phenomenon is when for one n-fold variant, letting a cardinal be called n-$P_0$ iff it has the property, and another variant, n-$P_1$, n-$P_0$ is weaker than n-$P_1$, which is weaker than (n+1)-$P_0$. (Kentaro, 2007) In the consistency strength hierarchy, here is where these lay (top being weakest):

All huge variants lay at the top of the double helix restricted to some natural number n, although each are bested by I3 cardinals (the critical points of the I3 elementary embeddings). In fact, every I3 is preceeded by a stationary set of n-huge cardinals, for all n. (Kanamori, 2009)

Similarly, every huge cardinal $\kappa$ is almost huge, and there is a normal measure over $\kappa$ which contains every almost huge cardinal $\lambda<\kappa$. Every superhuge cardinal $\kappa$ is extendible and there is a normal measure over $\kappa$ which contains every extendible cardinal $\lambda<\kappa$. Every (n+1)-huge cardinal $\kappa$ has a normal measure which contains every cardinal $\lambda$ such that $V_\kappa\models$”$\lambda$ is super n-huge” (Kanamori, 2009), in fact it contains every cardinal $\lambda$ such that $V_\kappa\models$”$\lambda$ is ultra n-huge”.

Every n-huge cardinal is m-huge for every m<n. Similarly with almost n-hugeness, super n-hugeness, and super almost n-hugeness. Every almost huge cardinal is Vopěnka (therefore the consistency of the existence of an almost-huge cardinal implies the consistency of Vopěnka’s principle). (Kanamori, 2009) Every ultra n-huge is super n-huge and a stationary limit of super n-huge cardinals. Every super almost (n+1)-huge is ultra n-huge and a stationary limit of ultra n-huge cardinals.

In terms of size, however, the least n-huge cardinal is smaller than the least supercompact cardinal (assuming both exist). (Kanamori, 2009) This is because n-huge cardinals have upward reflection properties, while supercompacts have downward reflection properties. Thus for any $\kappa$ which is supercompact and has an n-huge cardinal above it, $\kappa$ “reflects downward” that n-huge cardinal: there are $\kappa$-many n-huge cardinals below $\kappa$. On the other hand, the least super n-huge cardinals have both upward and downward reflection properties, and are all much larger than the least supercompact cardinal. It is notable that, while almost 2-huge cardinals have higher consistency strength than superhuge cardinals, the least almost 2-huge is much smaller than the least super almost huge.

While not every $n$-huge cardinal is strong, if $\kappa$ is almost $n$-huge with targets $\lambda_1,\lambda_2…\lambda_n$, then $\kappa$ is $\lambda_n$-strong as witnessed by the generated $j:V\prec M$. This is because $j^n(\kappa)=\lambda_n$ is measurable and therefore $\beth_{\lambda_n}=\lambda_n$ and so $V_{\lambda_n}=H_{\lambda_n}$ and because $M^{<\lambda_n}\subset M$, $H_\theta\subset M$ for each $\theta<\lambda_n$ and so $\cup\{H_\theta:\theta<\lambda_n\} = \cup\{V_\theta:\theta<\lambda_n\} = V_{\lambda_n}\subset M$.

Every almost $n$-huge cardinal with targets $\lambda_1,\lambda_2…\lambda_n$ is also $\theta$-supercompact for each $\theta<\lambda_n$, and every $n$-huge cardinal with targets $\lambda_1,\lambda_2…\lambda_n$ is also $\lambda_n$-supercompact.

For $2$-huge $κ$, $V_κ$ is a model of $\mathrm{ZFC}$+“there are proper class many hyper-huge cardinals”.(Usuba, 2017) Hyper-huge cardinals are extendible limits of extendible cardinals.(Usuba, 2019)

An $n$-huge* cardinal is an $n$-huge limit of $n$-huge cardinals. Every $n + 1$-huge cardinal is $n$-huge*.(Gitman & Shindler, n.d.)

As for virtually $n$-huge*:(Gitman & Shindler, n.d.)

The $\omega$-huge cardinals

A cardinal $\kappa$ is almost $\omega$-huge iff there is some transitive model $M$ and an elementary embedding $j:V\prec M$ with critical point $\kappa$ such that $M^{<\lambda}\subset M$ where $\lambda$ is the smallest cardinal above $\kappa$ such that $j(\lambda)=\lambda$. Similarly, $\kappa$ is $\omega$-huge iff the model $M$ can be required to have $M^\lambda\subset M$.

Sadly, $\omega$-huge cardinals are inconsistent with ZFC by a version of Kunen’s inconsistency theorem. Now, $\omega$-hugeness is used to describe critical points of I1 embeddings.

Relative consistency results

Hugeness of $\omega_1$

In [2] it is shown that if $\text{ZFC +}$ “there is a huge cardinal” is consistent then so is $\text{ZF +}$ “$\omega_1$ is a huge cardinal” (with the ultrafilter characterization of hugeness).

Generalizations of Chang’s conjecture

Cardinal arithmetic in $\text{ZF}$

If there is an almost huge cardinal then there is a model of $\text{ZF+}\neg\text{AC}$ in which every successor cardinal is a Ramsey cardinal. It follows that (1) for all inner models $W$ of $\text{ZFC}$ and every singular cardinal $\kappa$, one has $\kappa^{+W} < \kappa^+$ and that (2) for all ordinal $\alpha$ there is no injection $\aleph_{\alpha+1}\to 2^{\aleph_\alpha}$. This in turn imply the failure of the square principle at every infinite cardinal (and consequently $\text{AD}^{L(\mathbb{R})}$, see determinacy). [3]

In set theoretic geology

If $\kappa$ is hyperhuge, then $V$ has $<\kappa$ many grounds (so the mantle is a ground itself).(Usuba, 2017) This result has been strenghtened to extendible cardinals(Usuba, 2019). On the other hand, it s consistent that there is a supercompact cardinal and class many grounds of $V$ (because of the indestructibility properties of supercompactness).(Usuba, 2017)


  1. Kanamori, A. (2009). The higher infinite (Second, p. xxii+536). Springer-Verlag.
  2. Kentaro, S. (2007). Double helix in large large cardinals and iteration of elementary embeddings. Annals of Pure and Applied Logic, 146(2-3), 199–236.
  3. Usuba, T. (2017). The downward directed grounds hypothesis and very large cardinals. Journal of Mathematical Logic, 17(02), 1750009.
  4. Boney, W. (2017). Model Theoretic Characterizations of Large Cardinals.
  5. Gitman, V., & Shindler, R. Virtual large cardinals.
  6. Bagaria, J. (2012). \(C^{(n)}\)-cardinals. Archive for Mathematical Logic, 51(3–4), 213–240.
  7. Usuba, T. (2019). Extendible cardinals and the mantle. Archive for Mathematical Logic, 58(1-2), 71–75.
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