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

But rivals haven’t followed, which could set the two investment banks back in the competitive scramble for junior employees. Liz Hoffman, WSJ, "Goldman, JPMorgan Eased Up on Early Intern Recruiting. Others Haven’t.," 8 Mar. 2019 Even without those exclusives, the site rivals TMZ; the Shade Room has more than 10 million more followers on Instagram than TMZ does and has scooped it on several big stories, like Beyoncé going into labor in 2017. Kara Brown, Marie Claire, "Our Lady of Shade," 1 Mar. 2019 Chris—full name Christine—was also the only woman on that year’s debate stage with four male rivals for the Democratic nomination. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "How did ‘likability’ become a thing for women in politics?," 18 Jan. 2019 Huawei, and its crosstown rival ZTE Corp., have put forth vastly more proposals—and are among the biggest owners of key patents—underpinning the coming wave of 5G technology. Dan Strumpf, WSJ, "Where China Dominates in 5G Technology," 26 Feb. 2019 After backing out of costly fights with rivals in China, Russia and Southeast Asia, Uber is expanding its presence in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Nicolas Parasie, WSJ, "Uber’s Next Battleground in the Quest for 1 Billion Users: The Middle East’s Tech-Savvy Youth," 6 Feb. 2019 According to court filings, Manafort helped pay Craig's former law firm -- Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom LLP -- $4 million to review the prosecution of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s rival Yulia Tymoshenko in 2012. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "Former Obama official under scrutiny for Manafort ties," 24 Sep. 2018 Both services have long accepted Venmo rival Apple Pay in their apps. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Uber and Uber Eats to Accept Venmo for Payments," 12 July 2018 Unlike homebuilder rivals like D.R. Horton (DHI), Lennar (LEN), and PulteGroup (PHM), which cater mostly to entry-level buyers in the Sunbelt, Toll caters to the upper end, Barron’s said. Erin Arvedlund, Philly.com, "Toll Bros. gets some love from Barron's magazine," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The big, huge, ticker tape news of the Fall 2019 menswear season is that for the for the first time in the history of runway fashion, the men’s shows finally rival the womenswear ones in terms of excitement, innovation, and artistry. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "The Fall 2019 Men’s Trend Report," 25 Jan. 2019 But should emotional comfort ever rival traditional therapy? Justine Harman, Glamour, "These Self-Help Gurus Might Not Have Have Formal Training—But They Promise to Change Your Life," 20 Dec. 2018 Museveni also was in Arua at the time, campaigning for a rival candidate who eventually lost. Rodney Muhumuza, The Seattle Times, "Ugandan pop star, government critic Bobi Wine free on bail," 27 Aug. 2018 Candice Bergen will reprise her role as a dogged investigative journalist and TV anchor, and her character's son (played by Jake McDorman) will star on a rival morning show. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Murphy Brown Is Coming Back to Television," 19 July 2018 Last year, the Irish shocked their rival 49-14 and vaulted into the College Football Playoff discussion. Matthew Glenesk, Indianapolis Star, "Ranking Indiana's top 50 college football games in 2018," 11 July 2018 And in the last week, mailers paid for by the Baltimore County Victory Slate have landed in voters’ mailboxes promoting Almond and criticizing a rival candidate, state Sen. Jim Brochin of Cockeysville. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "Super PAC spends $32K on Baltimore County executive candidate Vicki Almond," 18 June 2018 This is the first season for the Ikon Pass, a rival to Vail’s Epic Pass. Kimberly Chin And, WSJ, "Vail Resorts Says Ski Bookings Were Light in Early December," 11 Jan. 2019 On the one hand is Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad, who at the grand old age of 93 has shed his authoritarian past, ousted a rival accused of massive corruption through democratic change, and re-entered the international stage with vigor. Matthew Pennington, Fox News, "Malaysia, Cambodia offer 2 Asian narratives of change at UN," 27 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Alexander Ovechkin has a shot to rival the Post-Cup summers had by Patrick Kane and Brad Marchand. Albert Breer, SI.com, "For Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, It’s Time to Compete Again," 11 June 2018 While some investors opposed the move, Xiaomi’s decision, four years after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (baba, +1.13%) chose New York, signals a new phase for the city in its ambitions to rival the U.S. market. Fortune, "China's Xiaomi Files in Hong Kong for the World's Biggest IPO Since 2014," 2 May 2018 The public’s fascination with him rivals its interest in Chanel herself, who was the subject of numerous biographies, plays, and films both recent and vintage; Katharine Hepburn played her on Broadway in the 1970 musical Coco. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Legendary Designer Karl Lagerfeld Has Died," 19 Feb. 2019 Natural gas would grow by 1.7% a year, surpassing coal as the world’s second largest source of global energy and rivaling oil for the top spot by the end of the outlook period. Christopher Alessi, WSJ, "BP: Renewables and Natural Gas to Dominate Energy Growth," 14 Feb. 2019 China has both military ambitions in space (where some of its technologies rival the United States'), as well as a desire for international prestige by doing new and interesting things in space. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Here’s why China’s launch to the far side of the Moon is a big deal," 10 Dec. 2018 The bridge is central to government plans to transform the region into a metropolis rivaling Silicon Valley in economic might. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "China Opens Gargantuan 34-Mile Mega Bridge," 23 Oct. 2018 Some wardens said his control over the jail rivaled their own. Fox News, "Ex-union boss at Rikers Island jail convicted of corruption," 15 Aug. 2018 There is an abundance of cocaine—rivaled, perhaps, by only the Fyre Festival—and jokes about the Holocaust, Asians, and breasts. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Black Monday on Showtime: Maybe Wall Street Isn't Funny Anymore," 21 Jan. 2019

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

16 Mar 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 shady place in a garden or forest

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