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)

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Synonyms & Antonyms for rival

Synonyms: Noun

challenger, competition, competitor, contender, contestant, corrival

Synonyms: Verb

battle, compete, contend, face off, fight, race, vie

Antonyms: Noun


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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

In the World Cup, the U.S. and England aren’t traditionally rivals. Billy Perrigo, Time, "Why Do Americans Call It Soccer Instead of Football? Blame England," 11 July 2018 And the president put confronting two of America’s biggest potential rivals in the world — China and Russia — at the center of his national security strategy. Alex Ward, Vox, "We need to talk about the fact that Trump seriously considered invading Venezuela," 6 July 2018 Meanwhile, Micron and its Korean rivals are still facing an investigation by a Chinese antitrust regulator. David Staats And Ian King, idahostatesman, "A Chinese court just retaliated against Boise's Micron. Here's why, and what it means," 5 July 2018 Write to Jay Greene at Jay.Greene@wsj.com Corrections & Amplifications Nichia Corp. is a Japanese rival of U.S.-based Cree Inc. Jay Greene, WSJ, "Cree Girds for LED Tariffs It Says Will Sting," 4 July 2018 Giving up runs with two outs sank Dan Straily on Sunday and scuttled the Marlins’ bid to sweep the weekend series against the Mets and stay ahead of their division rival in the battle to avoid the NL East basement. Craig Davis, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Mets cash in repeatedly with two-out runs to sink Straily, Marlins," 1 July 2018 Mosby only occasionally engaged her two rivals in the weeks leading to the election. Tim Prudente, baltimoresun.com, "Marilyn Mosby wins re-election in three-way race for Baltimore state's attorney," 26 June 2018 Some recommended viewing for Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett and his automotive C-suite rivals in Detroit and elsewhere: Walking Dead, World War Z and Dawn of the Dead. Kyle Stock, Bloomberg.com, "The Sedan is Dying, So It’s Time to Buy One," 25 June 2018 Now, with Republican businessman John Cox as his rival in November, Newsom will continue to play the anti-Trump card. Matier & Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, "Gavin Newsom’s top issues for California: affordability and homelessness," 5 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Davis said that earlier on the day of the shooting, his nephew, also a Crips member, had tried to steal a Death Row Records medallion from a member of Tupac’s entourage who was reportedly affiliated with the rival gang Bloods. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Ex-gangster claims he knows who really killed Tupac in Netflix series, producer calls for charges," 4 July 2018 Profit margins are tiny, so only a handful of companies make them, and none can dramatically increase production when a rival stops manufacturing. Linda A. Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "The other opioid crisis: Hospitals grapple with prolonged injected opioid shortage," 28 June 2018 The mission: kidnap a drug lord’s 12-year-old daughter, Isabela,frame a rival gang for the kidnapping, and sit back and watch the ensuing carnage. Michael Phillips, kansascity, "‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ enters the border debate, guns blazing," 28 June 2018 Profit margins are tiny, so only a handful of companies make them, and none can dramatically increase production when a rival stops manufacturing. Washington Post, "US hospitals grapple with prolonged injected opioid shortage," 27 June 2018 What’s less clear is whether MORENA will take control of the Mexican Congress to ram through major constitutional changes, or will need to compromise with rival party factions. Joseph N. Distefano, Philly.com, "Neighbors' complaints: Mexico, U.S. pull apart," 25 June 2018 Cooper, officials said, was the leader of a rival gang. Nicholas Rondinone, courant.com, "Sentencings Continue For Violent New Haven Gang Who Traded Drugs For Guns In Maine," 12 June 2018 In late 2011, in a match of reserve players in Grozny, a rival forward named Spartak Gogniev from F.C. Krasnodar in the Russian league was ejected after arguing with the referee. New York Times, "Mo Salah, Now Starring in Chechnya," 11 June 2018 Conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has long quieted speculation about plans to create a rival to Rupert Murdoch's cable news empire, is making new moves to lay the groundwork for the plan. Jeremy Barr, The Hollywood Reporter, "Sinclair Laying Groundwork for Fox News Competitor," 23 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The millions of eggs that are annually washed, cured and packaged within Fields' nondescript warehouse will go on to be sold as American caviar — a product that's said to rival the quality and taste of European imports three times its price. Bailey Loosemore, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky is swimming with potential to take over the US caviar market," 28 June 2018 By 2040, Interstate 35 will run through a San Antonio-Austin metroplex with a population rivaling the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s current size. Jasper Scherer, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio-Austin MPOs working to ready I-35 for population boom," 5 July 2018 This year’s event will likely rival that success: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in April that Prime now has more than 100 million subscribers, and generally speaking, Prime members are still more active about shopping on Amazon than non-Prime shoppers. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "Dealmaster: Amazon Prime Day returns on July 16—and it’s actually a day and a half," 3 July 2018 The first match of the 2018 tournament, between hosts Russia and Group A rivals Saudi Arabia, kicks off at 6 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) on Thursday. Euan Mckirdy, CNN, "World Cup 2026: US-Mexico-Canada bid chosen as host," 13 June 2018 Can any of these startups survive and thrive, perhaps one day rivaling big brands like Titleist and Callaway, both of which operate production facilities in Massachusetts? Scott Kirsner, BostonGlobe.com, "How golf startups are bringing innovation to a tradition-steeped game," 25 May 2018 Tottenham centre back Jan Vertonghan endeared himself to the Spurs faithful once more, by taking a dig at north London rivals Arsenal whilst appearing on a YouTube show. SI.com, "Jan Vertonghan Takes Dig at North London Rivals After Appearance on YouTube Show," 19 May 2018 But in a move rivaling Dallas’s infamous dream season, the series finale revealed that the show was all a fiction written by Roseanne, who has realized her dream of becoming a writer. Angela Allan, The Atlantic, "How Roseanne Handled the Culture Wars of Its Time," 27 Mar. 2018 One of the better tight end groups in recent years, rivaling last year's. Herbie Teope, NOLA.com, "Should tight end be on Saints' radar at 2018 NFL Scouting Combine?," 27 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





Phrases Related to rival

mortal foe/rival

Statistics for rival

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

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 \

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).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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