hamster wheel

[ ham-ster hweel, weel ]
/ ˈhæm stər ˌʰwil, ˌwil /

noun

a cylindrical framework, usually within a cage, that is rotated by a hamster or other small animal running inside of it.
any situation that seems to be endlessly without goal or achievement.

Nearby words

  1. hampton roads,
  2. hampton, lionel,
  3. hampton, wade,
  4. hamshackle,
  5. hamster,
  6. hamstring,
  7. hamstring muscle,
  8. hamsun,
  9. hamsun, knut,
  10. hamtramck

Origin of hamster wheel

First recorded in 1945–50

Also called squirrel cage.

Word story

What is the meaning of life? Have we become alienated in our increasingly industrialized existence? One pervasive modern metaphor supposes that we are just rodents in a cage. The most competitive among us traverse the maze in a rat race for the cheese, while the rest of us are content to spin in an endless hamster wheel of commutes and work, emails and errands, unable to change the scenery no matter how hard we run.
Reminiscent of absurdist and existentialist schools of philosophy, the metaphor of the hamster wheel has resonated in popular culture, from internet memes and street art to self-help books. The pervasive wisdom is to indulge the introspection and then either find meaning within the confines of the hamster wheel, or quit it entirely.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019