ri·​val | \ ˈrī-vəl \

Definition of rival 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess
b : one striving for competitive advantage
2 obsolete : companion, associate
3 : equal, peer



Definition of rival (Entry 2 of 3)

: having the same pretensions or claims : competing


rivaled or rivalled; rivaling or rivalling\ ˈrīv-​(ə-​)liŋ \

Definition of rival (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to act as a rival : compete

transitive verb

1 : to be in competition with
2 : to strive to equal or excel : emulate
3 : to possess qualities or aptitudes that approach or equal (those of another)

Keep scrolling for more

On Rivals, Rivaling, and Rivalry


The word rival most commonly refers to a person or group that tries to defeat or be more successful than another person or group, which means that rivals tend to come in pairs. Candidates running for the same political office are political rivals, and two people trying to earn the exclusive affection of a third are romantic rivals. Teams, schools, or companies might be longtime rivals if they try over many years to outdo each other.

Rival can also mean “equal” or “peer.” When the word is used in this way it's usually conveying how good or impressive something or someone is. For example, "a country musician the rival of any in the world" is as good as the best country musicians in the world. Often a negating word is added to assert superiority, as in "a country musician without rival."

As a verb, rival typically has a meaning that relates to this latter sense of the noun. The verb is most often used to say that someone or something possesses qualities or aptitudes that approach or equal those of another. For example, for one country musician to be rivaling another, the first country musician must be as good as or nearly as good as the other musician. (Note that in U.S. English, the verb's forms are usually spelled rivaled and rivaling; in British English rivalled and rivalling are preferred.)

The noun rivalry has to do with the state or situation in which rivals (usually in the “competitor” sense) exist, or in which rivaling happens. In politics we have political rivalries, and in matters of the heart there are romantic rivalries. Sibling rivalry exists when there is competition or jealousy between sisters or brothers.

Examples of rival in a Sentence


The teams have been longtime rivals. The men are romantic rivals for her affection.


The company manufactures paper that rivals the world's best. The new museum will rival the largest in the world.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

With Amazon a distant also-ran to domestic rivals in China, founder Jeff Bezos has pledged $5 billion to boost its operations in India. Newley Purnell, WSJ, "New India Tech Rules Could Face Pushback from U.S. Firms," 28 Dec. 2018 Producing revenue is a strategic milestone, putting Waymo ahead of its U.S. rivals. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Going for a ride in Waymo’s just-launched driverless taxi service," 6 Dec. 2018 Polis, a progressive and former five-term member of Congress, defeated his Republican rival Walter Stapleton by six points, TIME reports. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "20 Big Firsts and Historic Wins from the 2018 Midterm Elections," 7 Nov. 2018 Both the ASRock and PowerColor cards are overclocked versions of the RX 570, with the ASRock Phantom Gaming X hitting higher speeds than its rival. Ian Paul, PCWorld, "Ludicrous! Overclocked Radeon RX 570 graphics cards are on sale for $150 with 3 free games," 4 Oct. 2018 There’s networking with new supporters who stayed out of the primary (or backed one of her rivals). Celeste Katz, Glamour, "Rashida Tlaib Isn’t Waiting to Get to Congress to Help Other Women," 20 Sep. 2018 Unai Emery is on the lookout for a marquee attacking signing after the club lost Alexis Sanchez to bitter rivals Manchester United last year. SI.com, "Arsenal Suffer Blow in Pursuit of Boca Juniors Ace as Argentine Club Increase Asking Price to £37m," 12 July 2018 Reared in New York’s indelicate political culture, Trump does not like to appear meek, using rallies and his Twitter account to lacerate rivals. Paul Schwartzman, Washington Post, "‘Viciousness’: Trump aides endure public fury toward president’s policies," 9 July 2018 American consumer and industrial blue chips are typically of a similar scale in China to their nearest rivals. The Economist, "America Inc and the rage against Beijing," 28 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Of course, a small satellite could intercept such a signal, so to combat a spy sat network could mean developing a rival constellation tasked with hunting their signals. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Space Junk Could Provide a Perfect Hiding Spot for Tiny Spy Satellites," 30 Nov. 2018 That move not only boosted Comcast’s advertising technology, but also gave it a handful of new customers in rival media companies that were already using FreeWheel to send ads through their digital channels. Alexandra Bruell, WSJ, "Disney Consolidates Ad-Serving With Google, Ends Relationship With Comcast’s Freewheel," 27 Nov. 2018 The protests started after a brawl between students at rival schools on July 22, 1968, was brutally repressed by riot police. Andalusia Knoll, Teen Vogue, "What to Know About the 1968 Tlatelolco Plaza Student Massacre," 2 Oct. 2018 Mulye also noted that rival pharmaceutical company Casper Pharma raised the price of its brand-name version of nitrofurantoin, called Furadantin. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Pharma CEO jacks drug price 400%, citing “moral requirement to make money”," 11 Sep. 2018 The valet industry was once such a goldmine for parking attendants that rival companies would bid for the right to operate at exclusive nightclubs and restaurants. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Why valet parking is the future of smarter urban transit," 6 Aug. 2018 The latest move escalates a war between rival media companies being waged across two continents and involving two different transactions exceeding $100 billion in value in total. New York Times, "Comcast and Fox Engage in Bidding War for Control of Sky," 11 July 2018 The player, who appears to be De Sousa, was allegedly choosing between Kansas and a school sponsored by a rival athletic apparel company. Khadrice Rollins, SI.com, "Yahoo Sports Report Determines Kansas Has Been Subpoenaed in FBI's College Hoops Probe," 10 July 2018 The tribe, backed by Malaysian gambling company the Genting Group, broke ground on the project in 2016 but halted work after residents, backed by a rival casino company, Chicago’s Rush Street Gaming, successfully sued in federal court. Washington Post, "Land-trust case raises red flags across Indian Country," 4 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In addition to launching Fortnite Creative and season 7, the developer also unveiled a new PC games store to rival Steam. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Fortnite season 7 arrives with Santa, planes, and lots of snow," 6 Dec. 2018 My beauty gift to me this year is a stash to rival JJ's. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "14 Little Beauty Gifts That Bring Big Joy, According to Vogue Editors," 3 Dec. 2018 Eventually, says Saghian, the brand wants to expand its beauty offerings to rival those of Sephora and Ulta. Zoe Weiner, Allure, "Fashion Nova Is Launching an Affordable Makeup Line Called Nova Beauty," 25 July 2018 This doesn’t mean that English wines now rival the top Champagnes. Bruce Schoenfeld, WSJ, "English Wine Discovers Its New Sparkle," 5 Dec. 2018 The graphics performance is 1000 times faster than the first-generation iPad and now rivals an Xbox One S! Nilay Patel, The Verge, "Apple iPad Pro review 2018: the fastest iPad is still an iPad," 5 Nov. 2018 Tournament prize pools now rival those for some of the biggest events in traditional sports, and global audiences for some big gaming events have surpassed 100 million viewers, driven largely by esports’ exploding popularity in Asia. Christopher Ingraham, The Seattle Times, "What’s behind competitive esports events like one where shooting took place," 27 Aug. 2018 Top-ranked Warren Central finished the job in its own improbable, impossible style, rallying for a 54-48 win over Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Carmel at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "Like it has all season long, Warren Central finds a way to win," 24 Mar. 2018 High-speed rail now rivals air travel on key European and Asian routes. Bloomberg.com, "+1 212 318 2000," 10 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rival.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of rival


1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1592, in the meaning defined above


1607, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for rival


Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin rivalis one using the same stream as another, rival in love, from rivalis of a stream, from rivus stream — more at run

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about rival

Dictionary Entries near rival



rivage green





Statistics for rival

Last Updated

5 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rival

The first known use of rival was in 1577

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for rival



English Language Learners Definition of rival

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person or thing that tries to defeat or be more successful than another

: something or someone that is as good or almost as good as another person or thing



English Language Learners Definition of rival (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be as good or almost as good as (someone or something)


ri·​val | \ ˈrī-vəl \

Kids Definition of rival

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: someone or something that tries to defeat or be more successful than another



Kids Definition of rival (Entry 2 of 3)

: being equally good rival claims


rivaled or rivalled; rivaling or rivalling

Kids Definition of rival (Entry 3 of 3)

: to be as good as or almost as good as Her skills rival those of the champion.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on rival

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rival

Spanish Central: Translation of rival

Nglish: Translation of rival for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rival for Arabic Speakers

Comments on rival

What made you want to look up rival? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


involving abstract or general statements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Liar, Liar Quiz

  • alt-5761dbe2ba986
  • Someone who pretends to be sick in order to avoid work is a:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!