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a contest of speed, as in running, riding, driving, or sailing.
races, a series of races, usually of horses or dogs, run at a set time over a regular course:
They spent a day at the races.
any contest or competition, especially to achieve superiority:
the arms race; the presidential race.
urgent need, responsibility, effort, etc., as when time is short or a solution is imperative:
the race to find an effective vaccine.
onward movement; an onward or regular course.
the course of time.
the course of life or a part of life.

a strong or rapid current of water, as in the sea or a river.
the channel or bed of such a current or of any stream.

an artificial channel leading water to or from a place where its energy is utilized.
the current of water in such a channel.
Also called raceway. Machinery. a channel, groove, or the like, for sliding or rolling a part or parts, as the balls of a ball bearing.

the float between adjacent rows of pile.

to engage in a contest of speed; run a race.
to run horses or dogs in races; engage in or practice or dog racing.
to run, move, or go swiftly.
(of an engine, wheel, etc.) to run with undue or uncontrolled speed when the load is diminished without corresponding diminution of fuel, force, etc.
to run a race against; try to beat in a contest of speed:
I’ll race you to the water.
to enter (a horse, car, track team, or the like) in a race or races.
to cause to run, move, or go at high speed:
to race a motor.
a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.
a population so related.

(no longer in technical use) any of the traditional divisions of humankind, the commonest being the Caucasian, Mongoloid, and Negro, characterized by supposedly distinctive and universal physical characteristics.
an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, especially formerly, based on any or a combination of various physical characteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and now frequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.
a socially constructed category of identification based on physical characteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture:
Her parents wanted her to marry within her race.
a human population partially isolated reproductively from other populations, whose members share a greater degree of physical and genetic similarity with one another than with other humans.

a group of tribes or peoples forming an ethnic lineage:
the Slavic race.
any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, etc.:
the Dutch race.
the human race or family; humankind:
Nuclear weapons pose a threat to the race.
Zoology. a variety; subspecies.
a natural kind of living creature:
the race of fishes.
any group, class, or kind, especially of persons:
Journalists are an interesting race.
the characteristic taste or flavor of wine.
of or relating to the races of humankind.
the root of the ginger plant; a .
Cape, a cape at the SE extremity of Newfoundland.
Contemporary Examples

We should no more tolerate a “religious exemption” for those who oppose same-sex marriage than on race.
Conservatives on the Wrong Side of History on Mandela, Most Other Things Michael Tomasky December 9, 2013

Randy and wife, Tina, said they had both wanted to vote for Herman Cain until he dropped out of the race in the fall.
Rick Santorum’s Last-Minute Crusade in Iowa Patricia Murphy January 1, 2012

In the spring of 1976, when Mark was 12, Sargent Shriver conceded defeat in his race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mark Shriver’s Quest to Understand “A Good Man” Scott Stossel June 3, 2012

As for Dougherty, he hints that the sagging fortunes of the media business may have helped push him into the race.
McCain’s New Nemesis Samuel P. Jacobs May 11, 2010

As one national Republican strategist told The Daily Beast, the race “reset” when Moulton won the primary in September.
The GOP’s Great Gay Hope Hits Trouble Ben Jacobs October 29, 2014

Historical Examples

It was now for Ralph a race to the engine and his friend Barton.
Ralph on the Engine Allen Chapman

Through the teaching of Moses he was to become the sole Master of the Jewish race.
Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon

It has made me a firm believer in the degeneration of the race.
The Burglars’ Club Henry A. Hering

He then went on to recount her labors and sacrifices in behalf of her race.
Harriet, The Moses of Her People Sarah H. Bradford

Hereditary surnames are said to be memorials of race that can never be obliterated.
The Quest for a Lost Race Thomas E. Pickett

a contest of speed, as in running, swimming, driving, riding, etc
any competition or rivalry: the race for the White House
rapid or constant onward movement: the race of time
a rapid current of water, esp one through a narrow channel that has a tidal range greater at one end than the other
a channel of a stream, esp one for conducting water to or from a water wheel or other device for utilizing its energy: a mill race

a channel or groove that contains ball bearings or roller bearings or that restrains a sliding component
the inner or outer cylindrical ring in a ball bearing or roller bearing

(Austral & NZ) a narrow passage or enclosure in a sheep yard through which sheep pass individually, as to a sheep dip
(Austral) a wire tunnel through which footballers pass from the changing room onto a football field
(NZ) a line of containers coupled together, used in mining to transport coal
another name for slipstream (sense 1)
(archaic) the span or course of life
(Austral, informal) not in the race, given or having no chance
to engage in a contest of speed with (another)
to engage (oneself or one’s representative) in a race, esp as a profession or pastime: to race pigeons
to move or go as fast as possible
to run (an engine, shaft, propeller, etc) or (of an engine, shaft, propeller, etc) to run at high speed, esp after reduction of the load or resistance
a group of people of common ancestry, distinguished from others by physical characteristics, such as hair type, colour of eyes and skin, stature, etc. Principal races are Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid
the human race, human beings collectively
a group of animals or plants having common characteristics that distinguish them from other members of the same species, usually forming a geographically isolated group; subspecies
a group of people sharing the same interests, characteristics, etc: the race of authors
(informal) play the race card, to introduce the subject of race into a public discussion, esp to gain a strategic advantage
a ginger root
Cape Race, a cape at the SE extremity of Newfoundland, Canada

“act of running,” c.1300, from Old Norse ras “running, rush (of water),” cognate with Old English ræs “a running, a rush, a leap, jump; a storming, an attack;” or else a survival of the Old English word with spelling influenced by the Old Norse one. The Norse and Old English words are from Proto-Germanic *res- (cf. Middle Dutch rasen “to rave, rage,” German rasen, Old English raesettan “to rage” (of fire)), from a variant form of PIE *ers- “be in motion” (see err). Originally a northern word, it became general in English c.1550. Meaning “act of running” is from early 14c. Meaning “contest of speed” first recorded 1510s.

“people of common descent,” a word from the 16th century, from Middle French race, earlier razza “race, breed, lineage, family” (16c.), possibly from Italian razza, of unknown origin (cf. Spanish and Portuguese raza). Etymologists say no connection with Latin radix “root,” though they admit this might have influenced the “tribe, nation” sense.

Original senses in English included “wines with characteristic flavor” (1520), “group of people with common occupation” (c.1500), and “generation” (1540s). Meaning “tribe, nation, or people regarded as of common stock” is by 1560s. Modern meaning of “one of the great divisions of mankind based on physical peculiarities” is from 1774 (though as OED points out, even among anthropologists there never has been an accepted classification of these).

Just being a Negro doesn’t qualify you to understand the race situation any more than being sick makes you an expert on medicine. [Dick Gregory, 1964]

In mid-20c. U.S. music catalogues, “Negro.” Klein suggests these derive from Arabic ra’s “head, beginning, origin” (cf. Hebrew rosh). Old English þeode meant both “race, folk, nation” and “language;” as a verb, geþeodan, it meant “to unite, to join.”

“strong current of water,” late 14c., perhaps a particular use of race (n.1), or from or influenced by Old French raz, which had a similar meaning, and which probably is from Breton raz “a strait, narrow channel;” this French source also may have given race its meaning of “channel of a stream” (especially an artificial one to a mill), which is recorded in English from 1560s.

c.1200, rasen “to rush,” from a Scandinavian source akin to the source of race (n.1), reinforced by the noun in English and by Old English cognate ræsan “to rush headlong, hasten, enter rashly.” Meaning “run swiftly” is from 1757. Meaning “run in competition against” is from 1809. Transitive sense of “cause to run” is from 1860. In reference to an engine, etc., “run with uncontrolled speed,” from 1862. Related: Raced; racing.

race (rās)

A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.

A population of organisms differing from others of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits; a subspecies.

A breed or strain, as of domestic animals.


An interbreeding, usually geographically isolated population of organisms differing from other populations of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits. A race that has been given formal taxonomic recognition is known as a subspecies.

A breed or strain, as of domestic animals.

Any of several extensive human populations associated with broadly defined regions of the world and distinguished from one another on the basis of inheritable physical characteristics, traditionally conceived as including such traits as pigmentation, hair texture, and facial features. Because the number of genes responsible for such physical variations is tiny in comparison to the size of the human genome and because genetic variation among members of a traditionally recognized racial group is generally as great as between two such groups, most scientists now consider race to be primarily a social rather than a scientific concept.

Related Terms

drag race, horse race, rat race

Requirements Acquisition and Controlled Evolution.

rat race
slow but sure (steady wins the race)


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