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1. A fierce competition for success, wealth, or power. The company's environment felt like a rat race—employees were constantly sabotaging each other to climb the corporate ladder.
2. A busy, tiring routine. Cathy was tired of the rat race and knew she needed to get a less stressful job.
Fig. a fierce struggle for success, especially in one's career or business. Bob got tired of the rat race. He's retired and gone to the country. The money market is a rat race, and many people who work in it get out quickly because of the stress.
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 rat race
COMMON The rat race is a job or way of life in which people compete aggressively with each other in order to be successful and there is no time to relax or enjoy yourself. I had to get out of the rat race for a while and think about what was important in life. Do you ever fantasize about leaving the rat race behind?
the ˈrat race(disapproving) intense competition for success in jobs, business, etc., typical of a big city: Paul got caught up in the rat race and was never at home. ♢ They longed to escape from the rat race and move out of the city.
n. a dull and repetitive situation; a dull and unrewarding job. (see also daily grind.) I am really tired of this rat race—day after day. She dropped out of the rat race and moved to Vermont, where she opened a barber shop.
rat race, a
A relentless competition or struggle to advance oneself, or even to keep up. A twentieth-century expression transferring the rodent’s struggle for survival, it originated in America. It appears in Christopher Morley’s Kitty Foyle (1939): “Their own private life gets to be a rat race.”
See also: rat