ri·​val | \ ˈrī-vəl How to pronounce rival (audio) \

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 How to pronounce rivalling (audio) \

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)

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The president seems to think that Biden is his most formidable 2020 rival and has gone into nickname overdrive, now calling the former vice president Sleepy Creepy Biden. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “How Do You Stop These People?” “Shoot Them!”," 12 May 2019 But with a war against the White Walkers coming, outfoxing her rivals yet again will be harder than ever. Glamour, "Game of Thrones," 12 Apr. 2019 Famously, Netscape and it backers also accused their Goliath rival of dirty tricks. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "Later, Navigator: How Netscape Won and Then Lost the World Wide Web," 4 Apr. 2019 Per Rotten Tomatoes, How to Train Your Dragon just beat out its plastic rival with a story that does justice to the sweet and family-focused first two while wrapping up with a satisfying ending (spoiler alert: baby dragons!!). Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Animated Movies of 2019 Even Grown-Ups Will Obsess Over," 13 Mar. 2019 In two years, Snap managed to go from unstoppable to forgettable – and no amount of Evan Spiegel trash talking his rivals will bring Snap back to its heyday. Ashley Carman, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: Snap," 27 Dec. 2018 Zhu's poisoning was never solved, but controversy surged anew in 2013 when a medical student poisoned his rival at Fudan University, focusing attention back on her case. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Study brings us one step closer to solving 1994 thallium poisoning case," 25 Dec. 2018 Kors is plotting a different course than that of longtime rival Tapestry Inc., formerly known as Coach Inc. Tapestry, which is also building a stable of brands, has stayed both near its own price point and its New York headquarters. Kim Bhasin, The Seattle Times, "Michael Kors $2 billion bet on Versace may be too bold," 25 Sep. 2018 On Wednesday, despite weeks of lobbying by Uber, rival Lyft Inc. and others, the New York City Council passed a bill to freeze new issuances of ride-hailing licenses, a measure Mayor Bill de Blasio embraced. Greg Bensinger, Fox News, "For Uber and Airbnb, New York City turns foe," 13 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

As the heir of both the House of Tudor and the House of York, Arthur was a keystone in Henry VII's plan to prevent rival factions from rising against his claim to the throne and maintaining peace in the kingdom. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "The Cause of Prince Arthur Tudor's Death Remains a Medical Mystery," 13 May 2019 Its accounting methods vary from rival Lyft, but both companies could make things clearer for investors. Lauren Silva Laughlin, WSJ, "Uber’s Greater Clarity on Costs Not Reassuring," 20 Apr. 2019 But the musical comedy sketch parodying A Chorus Line, starring Kristin Chenoweth and O’Donnell as rival elves auditioning for a job for Santa, takes the whimsical cake of the evening. Liz Arcury, Marie Claire, "The 8 Best Celebrity Holiday Specials Ever," 29 Nov. 2018 Witnesses and family members told police the home where the shooting occurred belonged to Rashaad Walker Jr., a 20-month-old who was shot in 2010 amid a rival gang shootout, the Post-Standard reported. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "Shooting at Syracuse, NY, memorial service leaves 5 injured, including children, 8 and 14," 21 Sep. 2018 This is the first in a two-part project that attempts to answer those questions, guided by conversations with Royals officials, rival executives and coverage of the organization from the start of the rise in 2006. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "The State of the Royals, Part 1 of 2: How did they get here?," 12 July 2018 Last year, Tan launched an ambitious attempt to grow even bigger — through the purchase of rival mobile-chip maker Qualcomm Inc. Fortune, "Broadcom to Buy CA Technologies for $19 Billion," 11 July 2018 Elsewhere, a China-U.S. trade war looks like good news for rival soybean, dairy, and meat exporters in neutral Australia, Brazil, and Argentina. Joseph N. Distefano, Philly.com, "New Trump import fees: How will China fight back?," 11 July 2018 That scene embodied a revolution Ditko helped push at Marvel: Spider-Man was a hero a world apart from the costumed millionaires Superman and Batman at rival DC Comics. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Steve Ditko’s Ordinary People," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

So Goodman asked Lee and Kirby to come up with a superhero team that could rival the Justice League. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Stan Lee, the godfather of Marvel comics, dies at 95," 12 Nov. 2018 But now, with the rise of Audible, Amazon finally has a content production arm that can rival the large New York publishing houses. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Amazon’s Audiobook Boom," 2 July 2018 Some are as safe as any in the country — others have shooting and homicide rates that rival the most dangerous places in the world. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Some refugees resettling in America find gun violence instead of peace," 27 June 2018 Greater Cincinnati also boasts a very vibrant social and cultural community that rivals that of any big city without the difficulties of getting around that often occur in the larger cities. Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Greater Cincinnati Collegiate Connection Scholarship Essay Contest 2018 “Why Greater Cincinnati?”," 22 June 2018 My travails to snag it — risking it being seized by customs, overpaying sellers, weathering formula changes — surely rival those of the Arthurian knights who searched for their own Holy Grail in medieval lore. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "The “best” lipstick probably won’t change your life — but the search for it can," 12 Dec. 2018 At the end of the workshop, Bait al Nay provides tools and machines needed to cut, drill, and shape a traditional nay whose sound could rival those of the grandparents’ generation. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "In rediscovered reed flute, a soulful link to Jordanian identity," 13 July 2018 Starry uses a type of extremely high-frequency radio technology to deliver broadband Internet service at speeds rivaling those from landline broadband companies such as Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications. BostonGlobe.com, "Starry completes a $100 million funding round," 7 July 2018 Graham built Evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States, the Associated Press reports. Eileen Reslen, Good Housekeeping, "Kathie Lee Gifford Gets Emotional Remembering Evangelical Pastor Billy Graham," 21 Feb. 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.

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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

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Dictionary Entries near rival



rivage green





Statistics for rival

Last Updated

25 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rival

The first known use of rival was in 1577

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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 How to pronounce rival (audio) \

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.

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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).


a strong desire or propensity

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