Etymology
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rat-race (n.)

also rat race, 1934 in reference to aviation training, from rat (n.) + race (n.1).

A rat race is ... a simple game of "follow the leader" in fighter planes. The leader does everything he can think of — Immelmanns, loops, snap rolls, and turns, always turns, tighter and tighter. [Popular Science, May 1941]

In the 1930s actual rat races of some sort are frequently mentioned among popular carnival and gambling attractions. Meaning "fiercely competitive struggle," especially to maintain one's position in work or life is by 1939. Rat-run is from 1870 in the sense of "maze-like passages by which rats move about their territory," but originally and usually in a derogatory transferred sense.

[Matthew] Milton was not, at the period we write of [c. 1811], at all in the ring ; for in the following March he was steward of a rat-race, held at a public-house in Shepherd's-market, where four of these "varmin," decorated with different coloured ribands, were started for a sweepstakes, round the clubroom, before a host of sportsmen. ["Sporting Incidents at Home and Abroad," The Sporting Review, May 1848]
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*re- 

*rē-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to reason, count;" a variant of PIE root *ar-, also arə-, "to fit together." 

It forms all or part of: Alfred; arraign; arithmetic; Conrad; dread; Eldred; Ethelred; hatred; hundred; kindred; logarithm; Ralph; rate (n.) "estimated value or worth;" rathskeller; ratify; ratio; ration; read; reason; rede; rhyme; riddle (n.1) "word-game;" rite; ritual.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit radh- "to succeed, accomplish;" Greek arithmos "number, amount;" Latin reri "to consider, confirm, ratify," ritus "rite, religious custom;" Old Church Slavonic raditi "to take thought, attend to;" Old Irish im-radim "to deliberate, consider;" Old English rædan "to advise, counsel, persuade; read;" Old English, Old High German rim "number;" Old Irish rim "number," dorimu "I count."

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*red- 

*rēd-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to scrape, scratch, gnaw."

It forms (possibly) all or part of: abrade; abrasion; corrode; corrosion; erase; erode; erosion; radula; rascal; rase; rash (n.) "eruption of small red spots on skin;" raster; rat; raze; razor; rodent; rostrum; tabula rasa.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit radati "scrapes, gnaws," radanah "tooth;" Latin rodere "to gnaw, eat away," radere "to scrape;" Welsh rhathu "scrape, polish."

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*reg- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule."

It forms all or part of: abrogate; address; adroit; Alaric; alert; anorectic; anorexia; arrogant; arrogate; bishopric; correct; corvee; derecho; derogate; derogatory; Dietrich; direct; dress; eldritch; erect; ergo; Eric; Frederick; Henry; incorrigible; interregnum; interrogate; maharajah; Maratha; prerogative; prorogue; rack (n.1) "frame with bars;" rail (n.1) "horizontal bar passing from one post or support to another;" Raj; rajah; rake (n.1) "toothed tool for drawing or scraping things together;" rake (n.2) "debauchee; idle, dissolute person;" rakish; rank (adj.) "corrupt, loathsome, foul;" real (n.) "small Spanish silver coin;" realm; reck; reckless; reckon; rectangle; rectify; rectilinear; rectitude; recto; recto-; rector; rectum; regal; regent; regicide; regime; regimen; regiment; region; regular; regulate; Regulus; Reich; reign; resurgent; rex; rich; right; Risorgimento; rogation; royal; rule; sord; source; subrogate; subrogation; surge; surrogate; viceroy.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by:

Sanskrit raj- "a king, a leader," rjyati "he stretches himself," riag "torture" (by racking); Avestan razeyeiti "directs," raštva- "directed, arranged, straight;" Persian rahst "right, correct;" Latin regere "to rule, direct, lead, govern," rex (genitive regis) "king," rectus "right, correct;" Greek oregein "to reach, extend;" Old Irish ri, Gaelic righ "a king," Gaulish -rix "a king" (in personal names, such as Vircingetorix), Old Irish rigim "to stretch out;" Gothic reiks "a leader," raihts "straight, right;" Lithuanian raižytis "to stretch oneself;" Old English rice "kingdom," -ric "king," rice "rich, powerful," riht "correct;" Gothic raihts, Old High German recht, Old Swedish reht, Old Norse rettr "correct."

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*rei- 
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to flow, run."

It forms all or part of: derive; ember-days; rennet (n.1); Rhine; rialto; rill; rio; rival; rivulet; run; runnel.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit rinati "causes to flow," ritih "stream, course;" Latin rivus "stream;" Old Church Slavonic reka "river;" Middle Irish rian "river, way;" Gothic rinnan "run, flow," rinno "brook;" Middle Low German ride "brook;" Old English riþ "stream;" Old English rinnan, Old Norse rinna "to run," Dutch ril "running stream."
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*reig- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "stretch; be stretched; be stiff" 

It forms all or part of: reach; rigid; rigidity; rigor.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit rjyati "he stretches himself," riag "torture" (by racking); Greek oregein "to reach, extend;" Latin rigidus "hard, stiff, rough, severe," rigēre "be stiff;" Lithuanian raižytis "to stretch oneself;" Old Irish ringid "torture," rigim "I stretch;" Middle High German ric "band, string;" Old High German reihhon, Old English ræcan, ræcean "to reach, achieve," on notion of "to stretch out." 

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*reudh- 
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "red, ruddy." The only color for which a definite common PIE root word has been found. The initial -e- in the Greek word is because Greek tends to avoid beginning words with -r-.

It forms all or part of: bilirubin; corroborate; Eritrea; erysipelas; erythema; erythro-; Radnor; red; redskin; roan; robust; rooibos; Rotwelsch; rouge; roux; rowan; rubella; rubicund; rubric; ruby; ruddock; ruddy; rufous; Rufus; russet; rust.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin ruber, also dialectal rufus "light red," mostly of hair; Greek erythros; Sanskrit rudhira-; Avestan raoidita-; Old Church Slavonic rudru, Polish rumiany, Russian rumjanyj "flushed, red," of complexions, etc.; Lithuanian raudas; Old Irish ruad, Welsh rhudd, Breton ruz "red."
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