any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a pressured urban working life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.
Origin of rat race
An Americanism dating back to 1935–40
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for rat race
a continual routine of hectic competitive activityworking in the City is a real rat race
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Idioms and Phrases with rat race
Fierce competition to maintain or improve one's position in the workplace or social life. For example, You may not realize what a rat race it is to get research grants. This term presumably alludes to the rat's desperate struggle for survival. [Colloquial; first half of 1900s]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.