What does the idiom "the rat race" mean?

The expression the rat race is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the the rat race idiom.

Meaning of "the rat race"


The term 'the rat race' is an idiom used to describe a busy and competitive lifestyle, often referring to the daily grind of going to work and trying to provide for oneself and one's family. It can also refer to the stress and anxiety people often feel when faced with this way of living and the pursuit of material goods. The term originated in the 1950s and has been popularized in recent years due to the increasing prevalence of the competitive, fast-paced lifestyle.


The term 'rat race' was first popularized in the 1950s and is believed to have originated from the phrase 'rat race of life'. This phrase was originally used in a British magazine article in 1941, and it was not until the 1950s that the phrase was used to refer to the daily grind of working and pursuing material goods. The phrase was further popularized after being used by the American philosopher and writer Erich Fromm in his book Escape from Freedom in 1941.


The term 'rat race' is typically used in a negative connotation, referring to the struggles and anxieties associated with the competitive and fast-paced lifestyle. It is often used to describe the feeling of being stuck in a never-ending cycle of working and trying to buy material goods and is associated with the stress of this kind of lifestyle. It is also used to describe the lack of personal freedom associated with this kind of lifestyle.

Example Sentences

  • I'm so tired of being stuck in the rat race. I just want to be free and enjoy life.
  • He's been working in the rat race for years and he's ready for a break.
  • This job keeps me running in the rat race day after day.
  • My parents never wanted me to get stuck in the rat race like they did.
  • I'm tired of going through the rat race every day and not getting anywhere.

The meanings of the words in the "the rat race" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.


No comment has been written about the rat race yet, you can write the first comment and share your thoughts with our other visitors.
Leave a Reply