Though lab rat has a literal definition, it is also an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idiom lab rat, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
When used literally, the expression lab rat simply means a rat that is experimented on in a laboratory. Lab is an abbreviation of the word laboratory. However, the idiom lab rat refers to someone who has been experimented on or who has tried something out before it is put into general use. For instance, the first person to try a new product may be considered a lab rat. Someone who participates in drug trials is a lab rat. The expression laboratory rat came into use at the turn of the twentieth century and mostly referred to actual rats. The term lab rat, used as an idiom, became popular in the mid-twentieth century. The plural of lab rat is lab rats.
But it is an ideal lab rat for the deal Universal cut with AMC this past summer, a deal which would allow Universal theatrical releases to debut on PVOD in as little as 17 days after the theatrical release. (Forbes)
So I thought I would share my experience as a lab rat with Navajo Times readers so they can make a more informed decision on whether or not to participate in this historic moment in international scientific discovery. (The Navajo Times)
‘I’m the Lab Rat’: The Man Who Survived Three Deadly Cancers Thanks to Groundbreaking Israeli Research (Haaretz)