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

The Information reports that Uber’s attempt to merge with Middle Eastern ride-hail rival Careem is falling apart. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "This Week in the Future of Cars: Lofty Goals, Raw Ambition," 7 July 2018 Sinema trounced all three potential Republican rivals in that survey. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, azcentral, "At 86, Joe Arpaio's Senate run worries GOP voters. His response: Age doesn’t mean anything," 6 July 2018 Taking a page from President Trump, Boughton took a dig at the media after his GOP rival David Stemerman cited The Courant. Daniela Altimari, courant.com, "Boughton Says 'Fake News' Charge Against The Courant Was Made 'In Jest'," 13 July 2018 Facing a Louisville defense that returns just two starters and with lingering questions in the UK passing game, Snell will likely need to pave the way again if Kentucky is to beat its rival. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "How Kentucky football can win (or lose) against Louisville in 2018," 13 July 2018 Evers and his seven Democratic rivals are debating at 6 p.m. at the Mainstage Theatre at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Scott Walker and Tony Evers duel in billboards ahead of Democratic debate," 12 July 2018 Under the terms of its new offer, Fox would offer 14 pounds a share, or about 12 percent more than its rival. BostonGlobe.com, "Papa John’s founder apologizes for racial slur," 12 July 2018 Following its three larger rivals, Sprint on Thursday unveiled a new, more complicated lineup of unlimited mobile data plans. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Sprint Follows Rivals By Complicating Its Unlimited Mobile Data Plans," 12 July 2018 The risky short targeted its rival by featuring a Coke delivery man trying to sneak a bottle of Pepsi out of a store cooler. Fiza Pirani, ajc, "Are these the best Super Bowl ads of all time?," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Alaska’s new Sacramento-Kona route comes ahead of possible service on rival Southwest, which competes fiercely with Alaska Airlines in the California market. Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY, "Alaska Airlines adds new Hawaii route from California," 19 June 2018 Large windows overlook Divisadero, a street that’s beginning to rival Valencia as a restaurant destination. Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle, "Che Fico lives up to hype as most anticipated newcomer," 8 June 2018 Taylor Scully leads on offense and scored five consecutive goals to push Hand over SCC rival Guilford in the semifinal. courant.com, "High School Championships: Preview Capsules," 8 June 2018 Trump’s low popularity in the state should have also aided a governor from the rival party. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Cynthia Nixon Is in Andrew Cuomo’s Head," 5 Apr. 2018 The team got a confidence boost with a 21-17 road win over rival Georgia Southern and closed the season with a historic 27-17 win over Western Kentucky in the Cure Bowl. Iliana Limón Romero, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Young Georgia State is No. 104 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 15 May 2018 Stoppelman’s company has feuded for years with its much larger rival Google, which Yelp says has unfairly weighted local search results to its own product. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman on Recode Decode," 15 Apr. 2018 Running without his friendly rival Kenan Christon, Mt. Carmel’s Quoi Ellis ran his fastest-ever non-windy 100, winning the event in 10.63 seconds with a perfect 2.0 meters-per-second tailwind. Steve Brand, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Cavers hurdler lowers personal mark at Valley Center meet," 14 Apr. 2018 Growing energy engineering and construction firm McDermott International poached its new second-in-command from rival TechnipFMC. Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle, "McDermott poaches new COO from rival TechnipFMC," 3 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Biotech is having a banner year on Wall Street, with 33 IPOs to date and a median return rivaling that of the industry’s last boom. Damian Garde, STAT, "Biotech IPOs are soaring. This one will test investors’ appetite for risk," 9 July 2018 China will succeed in building a powerful technology industry that will rival that of the United States, even if President Trump starts a trade war to stop it. Li Yuan, BostonGlobe.com, "Why the Made in China 2025 modernization drive is on track to succeed, despite Trump," 4 July 2018 It was claimed on Thursday that Everton had rivalled Leicester Cityin the race for Vida's signature by submitting a €13m to the Turkish giants. SI.com, "Everton Prepared to Offer Outcast Davy Klaasen in Shock Swap Deal for Croatian World Cup Star," 30 June 2018 AMC Theaters just announced plans to add a subscription service to its rewards program, rivaling subscription movie ticketing service MoviePass. Emma Austin, The Courier-Journal, "Is AMC's new subscription deal giving MoviePass a run for their money?," 21 June 2018 Those concerns could lead the gangs to kill a candidate who rivals their favorite, or to kill candidates who refuse their demands. Mark Stevenson, Fox News, "2 mayoral candidates killed in Mexico, 18 dead so far," 21 June 2018 The width of Post Oak Boulevard will be 136 feet, rivaling New York's 5th Avenue and Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Houston Chronicle, "By the Numbers: Houston’s Most Lively District," 19 June 2018 To its credit, Ryanair has long prepared for the day a competitor rivalled it on cost. The Economist, "A Hungarian startup could beat Ryanair at its own low-cost game," 31 May 2018 The early voting numbers came close to rivaling what the board saw during the 2016 primary, which tallied 11,352 votes cast. Craig Lyons, Post-Tribune, "Lake County sees surge in early voting, Porter remains steady," 7 May 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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Learn More about rival

Dictionary Entries near rival



rivage green





Statistics for rival

Last Updated

9 Nov 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).


playful or foolish behavior

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