rat race, a
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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
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
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer