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I'm writing a mildly dystopian scenario where competition is taken to vicious extremes, and I was wondering if there was a word that I could use (specifically a noun that was a synonym of "competition") to describe the sort of vicious, cutthroat ... _________ (the word that I want) that was going on.

I'm specifically looking for a word that doesn't refer to a one-off event (like "contest" or "tug-of-war"), but rather is more about the state of things.

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    Hmm. What did you rule out when you looked in the thesaurus, so we don't give you useless answers? – anongoodnurse May 10 '14 at 21:07
  • From thesaurus.com, I ruled out all the boldly highlighted ones... although "rat race" seems to work, I'd like a few more options along the lines of "rat race", if any exist. – Joe Z. May 10 '14 at 21:10
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    I'm specifically looking for a word that doesn't refer to a one-off event, but rather is more about the state of things. That rules out "bout", "counteraction", "encounter", and "tug-of-war". – Joe Z. May 10 '14 at 21:10
  • That helps, thanks! Rivalry isn't a one-off, though it may not be cut-throat enough. Dogfight was good, but it sounds one-off. This helps. – anongoodnurse May 10 '14 at 21:15
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How about "rivalry," "antagonism, and "oppugnancy?"

rivalry: the state or condition of competition or antagonism.

antagonism: an active hostility or opposition, as between unfriendly or conflicting groups.

oppugnancy: the state or quality of being oppugnant; antagonism.

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  • I ended up using "antagonism". Thanks! – Joe Z. May 11 '14 at 3:18
  • "Brawl" is a good one. – Jason Chen May 11 '14 at 4:16
  • "Brawling" would be better, methinks. – Joe Z. May 11 '14 at 12:53
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Try death struggle or struggle to the death; such a struggle can last a long time -- for instance in a civil war, which in the worst case can continue for decades.

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  • to the death captures the essence. – Gary's Student May 10 '14 at 21:58
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Consider the following terms:

rat race, “An activity or situation which is congested with participants and which is hectic or tedious, especially in the context of a busy, modern urban lifestyle”
slugfest, using a figurative form of the sense “(sports) A game or match in which heavy hits are exchanged”
infighting, “Fighting or quarreling among the members of a single group or side”, a term that perhaps fits well in the example sentence

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Maybe someone can come up with more vicious but off the top of my head there is death match. Not sure you can get more vicious than death.

A good slang piece for a constant death match or an ongoing death match competition is thunderdome.

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  • As I said in a comment above, I'm specifically looking for a word that doesn't refer to a one-off event, but rather is more about the state of things. – Joe Z. May 10 '14 at 21:18
  • If there's a word that can connote that people are constantly death-matching each other, that would work. – Joe Z. May 10 '14 at 21:18

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