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)

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

Noun The teams have been longtime rivals. The men are romantic rivals for her affection. Verb 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 For dinosaurs that weighed over 2,200 pounds, longer legs allowed them to move more efficiently, but not as fast as their smaller rivals. Fox News, "Frightening Tyrannosaurus rex was a 'marathon' walker, new study says," 21 May 2020 The company also drew the attention of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who launched a probe into Kaleo in 2017 after the company charged $4,500 for its rival to the EpiPen allergic reaction device. Ed Silverman, STAT, "CEO tapped by Trump to make generic drugs during pandemic has a dicey track record," 19 May 2020 More From WSJ Logistics Report Uber Freight and its digital rivals are still small players compared with the sector’s biggest operators. Jennifer Smith, WSJ, "Uber’s Re-Evaluation of Freight Follows Steep Losses," 18 May 2020 Afghanistan's Ghani strikes power-sharing deal with rival Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed a power-sharing agreement with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Sunday. Tim O'donnell, TheWeek, "10 things you need to know today: May 17, 2020," 17 May 2020 But in a stunning about face, Gantz agreed to enter a partnership with his arch rival. Time, "After 3 Divisive Elections, Israel Finally Swears in a New Government," 17 May 2020 For around $20, fans of Borussia Monchengladbach or their rivals will be able to buy cardboard cutouts of themselves, which will be placed in their Borussia-Park stadium. NBC News, "Soccer kicks off in Germany as first major sports league reopens amid pandemic," 16 May 2020 Facebook has a history of trying to learn more about its rivals through data-rich acquisitions. Louise Matsakis, Wired, "Buying Giphy Gives Facebook a New Window Into Its Rivals," 15 May 2020 Kohl's has teamed up with Amazon to operate return centers for its online rival and has brought in a ton of new brands. Phil Wahba, Fortune, "J.C. Penney faces a tough road ahead as it mulls bankruptcy protection," 15 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Noble says that, after the Roman threat was gone, these Pictish groups banded together to defend against aggressive neighbors and rival kingdoms. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "A huge Scottish hillfort was the largest settlement in medieval Britain," 20 May 2020 Meyer and Harbaugh traded shade on each other a few times during their tenures at rival schools. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State’s Urban Meyer reacts to Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh’s call for NFL Draft eligibility reform," 13 May 2020 Maduro, accused of stealing the 2018 elections and unleashing a repressive campaign to kidnap, torture and kill opponents, faced a rival claim for the presidency. Anchorage Daily News, "How an ex-Green Beret and a defecting general planned to capture Venezuela’s president," 11 May 2020 Next, Germany plans to host a Libyan summit this month to enforce a UN arms embargo flouted by the backers of the rival factions. Ilya Arkhipov, Bloomberg.com, "Libyan Fighters Begin Tenuous Cease-Fire in Glimmer of Peace," 10 May 2020 Block Shop Textiles Robe Get mom a robe to rival Chrissy Teigen’s collection. Jasmin Perez, Sunset Magazine, "The Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift Guide," 1 May 2020 In Iraq, where rival political and sectarian factions have struggled to form a new government, the Health Ministry spent weeks attempting to receive a mere $5 million from the Treasury. Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why coronavirus clampdown is proving risky for Arab regimes," 9 Apr. 2020 As part of the deal, rival factions in Afghanistan were to come together in all-Afghan talks about shaping the country's future. NBC News, "U.S. shames Afghan leaders' obstinance as pandemic looms," 24 Mar. 2020 Another wrinkle is that Turkey and Russia have backed rival factions in Libya’s civil war, an issue that could give Russia leverage during Thursday’s talks, Cagaptay said. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post, "Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan head for talks with major Syria rift between them," 4 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The hit was indeed big, with scenarios rivaling the Great Depression as millions of Americans lost their jobs and people lined up for hours at food banks. Carolyn Said, SFChronicle.com, "Lives or livelihoods? Bay Area seeks balance in reopening economy," 22 May 2020 The coronavirus pandemic has led to more than 38 million jobless claims being filed in the U.S., and economists are predicting unemployment rates rivaling the peak unemployment periods of the Great Depression in the 1930s. al, "From bust to boom: Alabama beach rentals fill up, but will the good times last?," 22 May 2020 Two years later, the company's first Fire TV set-top box, priced at $99 and powered by Android, launched with an emphasis on gaming—thus rivaling the likes of that era's Ouya. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Crucible, Amazon’s new online shooter: Alexa, does this game have a chance?," 19 May 2020 Joox has become one of the most popular music apps in emerging markets from Indonesia to Thailand and Malaysia since launching in 2015, rivaling the likes of Spotify, in which Tencent also has a stake. Zheping Huang, Bloomberg.com, "Tencent Eyes Africa for Music App After Covid-19 Streaming Spike," 15 May 2020 The outbreak is ravaging Latin America at a rate rivaling Europe’s, our journalists found, without the intense global attention and far fewer medical and economic resources to combat it. Isabella Kwai, New York Times, "Coronavirus, Germany, N.H.S.: Your Wednesday Briefing," 13 May 2020 Deaths doubled in Lima, rivaling the worst month of the pandemic in Paris. BostonGlobe.com, "Latin America’s outbreaks now rival Europe’s," 12 May 2020 The number of people who die as a result of these delays could end up rivaling or exceeding deaths due to Covid-19. Jeff Lebenger, WSJ, "Medical Lockdown Will Cause a Disease Surge," 11 May 2020 Another 2m may have gone in April, a drop rivalling the record decline in employment that occurred in 1945, as America’s armed forces demobilised. The Economist, "Free exchange Why the unemployed in America could face a lost decade," 2 May 2020

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

Time Traveler for rival

Time Traveler

The first known use of rival was in 1577

See more words from the same year

Statistics for rival

Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rival.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rival. Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for rival


How to pronounce rival (audio)

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.

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!