rat race

noun Informal.
  1. 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for rat-race

treadmill

Examples from the Web for rat-race

Historical Examples of rat-race

  • But under torment of insomnia the many selves of the mind may abandon the congress of reason and start a rat-race.


British Dictionary definitions for rat-race

rat race

noun
  1. 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

Word Origin and History for rat-race
n.

also rat race, "competitive struggle," 1934, from rat (n.) + race (n.1). Rat-run is from 1870 in a literal sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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.