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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.
a continual routine of hectic competitive activity: working in the City is a real rat race

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

noun phrase

A job, situation, milieu, etc, marked by confusion and stress; futile and enervating hyperactivity; the everyday world of toil and struggle; the routine workaday: the rat-race of ordinary social gatherings

[1939+; found by 1937 as the name of a dance]
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. [ ; first half of 1900s ]


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  • Ratskeller

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