rat race


noun Informal.

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.

Nearby words

  1. rat guard,
  2. rat islands,
  3. rat kangaroo,
  4. rat on,
  5. rat pack,
  6. rat snake,
  7. rat tamer,
  8. rat terrier,
  9. rat's nest,
  10. rat-a-tat

Origin of rat race

An Americanism dating back to 1935–40

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


British Dictionary definitions for rat race

rat race

noun

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

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.