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

Mercenaries can also find ways to indirectly get rivals killed. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, "Preview: ‘Vicious Circle’ is a cutthroat version of ‘Evolve’ that’s way more fun," 3 July 2019 Although the company remains China's dominant search engine, accounting for some 70% of the market share, its performance has fallen behind major rivals such as Tencent and Alibaba in recent months. Sherisse Pham, CNN, "Baidu CEO gets water poured on his head at company AI event," 3 July 2019 Away from the Copa America and World Cup drama, the old rivals met up in the semi-finals of the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, as Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho went head to head. SI.com, "5 Classic Clashes Between Brazil & Argentina Ahead of Wednesday's Copa America Semi-Final," 2 July 2019 Players like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors spent their entire careers projecting a sense of antipathy toward both older and younger rivals. Kevin Craft, The Atlantic, "What the Men Can Learn From the Women at Wimbledon," 2 July 2019 The longtime rivals have met in the final five times (1993, 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011) with Mexico boasting a 4-1 record. Jeremy Mikula, chicagotribune.com, "Want to go to the Gold Cup final Sunday at Soldier Field? Try the secondary market," 1 July 2019 In January, French regulators fined it $57 million for violating a new data privacy law while the E.U. levied an additional $1.7 billion fine in March for freezing out advertising rivals. Fortune, "Alphabet," 1 July 2019 With the Western Conference arms race heating up, Portland Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey isn’t content sitting on the sideline and watching rivals load up. oregonlive.com, "Portland Trail Blazers trade for Hassan Whiteside, send Meyers Leonard to Miami Heat, Moe Harkless to LA Clippers: Report," 1 July 2019 Before Wednesday night’s debate in Miami, the Texans had not treated each other as direct rivals. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Clash of the Texans: Julián Castro's breakout leaves Beto O'Rourke to do some homework," 30 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

ISPs can already offer their own streaming video services and use data caps to steer customers away from rival services. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Google Stadia exec isn’t worried about data caps—but he probably should be," 1 July 2019 After losing to rival Graff in 1988 and 1989, Navratilova fended off knee issues to win her record ninth title in dominant form. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Ranking the 10 most iconic Wimbledon moments of the Open era," 1 July 2019 The un-Green request was gleefully reported on Twitter by a spokesman for a rival party. Sara Germano, WSJ, "Germany Scorned Air Conditioning—Then Came the Heat Wave," 30 June 2019 Essentially, a rival team would trade for Smith, pay his small guarantee for the upcoming season and save around $11 million against the cap. Chris Fedor, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Cavaliers, JR Smith agree to push back guarantee date on contract, giving team more time to search for trade," 29 June 2019 Among the questions that have arisen: Should gas stations and 7-Elevens in rival territory be off-limits? Nicole Santa Cruz, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Nipsey Hussle’s death unified Crips and Bloods in grief. Now, peace talks carry on his call," 23 June 2019 This time out, Pixar had to contend with rival film The Secret Life of Pets. Pamela Mcclintock, The Hollywood Reporter, "Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' No. 1 With $118M U.S. Bow, Clears $238M Globally," 23 June 2019 One by one, manufacturers that specialized for the better part of a century in premium sports cars and chauffeured saloons have bowed to recent pressure to keep customers who want taller vehicles from defecting to rival brands. Jaclyn Trop, Fortune, "The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Is a Diamond Designed for Rough Terrain," 22 June 2019 Sanders was a member of a Bloods gang and people that Jackson had been hanging out with in the parking lot were associated with a rival gang, Vasquez said. oregonlive.com, "Man who fatally shot teen in the head in Southeast Portland parking lot gets 20 years," 21 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

With more than 100 million Prime members, Amazon’s concert has the potential to have a massive audience that could rival the Super Bowl. NBC News, "From Taylor Swift to the NBA, watching live events online is the VIP way to see a show," 2 July 2019 Those monitoring the ice sheet say melting in 2019 could rival it. Jason Samenow, BostonGlobe.com, "The Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet have seen record ice loss in June," 16 June 2019 Those monitoring the ice sheet say melting in 2019 could rival it. Jason Samenow, Anchorage Daily News, "Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet seeing record June ice loss," 14 June 2019 The market could ultimately rival Colorado’s marijuana market. Ally Marotti, chicagotribune.com, "Marijuana dispensary rolls out its own credit card as weed industry works to go beyond cash-only sales," 14 June 2019 The crowds that could gather for games involving Hughes could rival what former NBA players OJ Mayo and Bill Walker had during their stint at North College Hill. Scott Springer, Cincinnati.com, "Why you should pay attention to high school freshman hooper Rayvon Griffith," 13 June 2019 The addition of Streep only confirms that TV is now capable of drawing ensembles that could rival those of any Ocean’s movie. Judy Berman, Time, "With Meryl Streep on Big Little Lies, It's Time to Admit That Film and TV Are Converging," 6 June 2019 With five four- or five-star prospects already in the fold and more than a dozen others seriously considering Kentucky, the 2020 class could rival the 2014 one by the time players have their first opportunity to sign in December. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Could 2020 Kentucky football recruiting class be Mark Stoops' highest-rated?," 21 May 2019 Vanguard is now ending the service on July 31, an acknowledgment the offering couldn’t rival what banks provide. ... Dawn Lim, WSJ, "Vanguard to End Cash-Management Service for Larger Customers," 3 Mar. 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

6 Jul 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

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