What Is a Lab Rat? – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

What is a lab rat? The word lab rat actually has more than one definition, believe it or not. It can refer to the actual rat or a person used in experimentation. Keep reading to learn all about the meaning and origin of the term lab rat. I also included examples of how you can use it in a sentence.

Lab Rat Definition & Meaning

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When used literally, the word lab rat refers to a rat used for laboratory research. The word lab is an abbreviated form of laboratory.

Lab rat is also an idiomatic expression that can refer to someone who has been experimented on. We can also use this term for someone who tried something out before the product or service was put into general use.

For instance, the first batch of a new educational system can be considered lab rats. A person who tries a new makeup product before anyone else is a lab rat.

Origin of Lab Rat

Lab Rat Ngram
Lab rat usage trend.

Lab rat’s literal usage onlybecame popular at the start of the twentieth century, even if the widespread practice of keeping rats for domestication has been around since the 18th century.

The first known use of rats in lab research was by John Watson in 1903. A researcher named W.S. Small suggested that the rate of learning can be measured by rats in a maze.

The idiomatic expression that means someone used as a subject for experimentation only came to use in the mid-twentieth century.

Is Lab Rat Slang?

Some people use lab rat informally to refer to a person addicted to being in the laboratory. These people always run experiments and are chained to them, hindering them from maintaining a personal life.

Examples of Lab Rat in Sentences

  • The lab rat scurried through the maze, searching for the piece of cheese at the end.
  • The scientists observed the lab rat’s behavior as it was exposed to different chemicals.
  • The lab rat’s genetic makeup was meticulously studied in order to gain insight into certain diseases.
  • Lab rats were an integral part of the research team, providing valuable data for the experiment.
  • The lab rat’s life was dedicated to the advancement of science and medicine.
  • The lab rat’s behavior was recorded and analyzed as part of a larger study on addiction.
  • The physiology of the lab rat was altered by the researchers to better understand brain function.
  • The lab rat’s condition was carefully monitored throughout the course of the experiment.
  • Progress of the lab rats was charted daily as it underwent various treatments.
  • The lab rat’s sacrifice helped pave the way for new discoveries and treatments in the field of medicine.

Final Word on Lab Rat

A laboratory rat or lab rat has more than one definition. Its original or literal meaning is an actual rat used for experiments. It can also be a person used for research or someone who tried something out before the product or service was put into general use.

Use the informal lab rat to refer to a laboratory researcher whose dedication to the lab surpasses their personal relationships.