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 rival (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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The race for Champions League qualification is also heading for the final day, too, with Tottenham climbing into fourth place — two points ahead of north London rival Arsenal. Steve Douglas, ajc, 15 May 2022 Phoenix is coming off a loss in US Cup competition last Wednesday to USL rival Sacramento. The Arizona Republic, 14 May 2022 Markets have certainly made no secret of their preference for Marcos’ main rival, incumbent vice president Leni Robredo—a economics graduate and lawyer with experience in poverty alleviation, rural development, and housing. Time, 13 May 2022 For the notorious Toyotomi—a man who had once ordered his own nephew to commit ritual suicide to ensure that his son would have no rival as his successor—these Christians posed too much of a threat to Japan’s political and religious status quo. Rob Goss, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 May 2022 His once-rival Iceman — Val Kilmer — is back, too, a huge Navy muckety-muck now. Mark Kennedy, Chron, 12 May 2022 Scott High School girls basketball coach Steve Brown has moved to 37th District rival Bishop Brossart to take over its vacant girls basketball position. James Weber, The Enquirer, 11 May 2022 After scoring 44 runs in a three-game sweep of North Dakota State over the weekend, the Hurricanes stayed hot at the plate in a midweek contest against in-state rival UCF. Adam Lichtenstein, Sun Sentinel, 11 May 2022 Leni Robredo, the country’s vice president and Mr. Marcos’s chief rival, is being painted as a communist who has accomplished nothing in office. New York Times, 9 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Miami heads to Tallahassee this weekend for a three-game series against rival Florida State, which starts Friday. Adam Lichtenstein, Sun Sentinel, 11 May 2022 Webster noted that many shootings result from feuds between rival groups, which could help explain why shooters may target more than one victim. Jessica Anderson, Baltimore Sun, 11 May 2022 Cash payments in California medical malpractice cases would go up for the first time in nearly five decades under a deal between rival interest groups announced Wednesday that avoids a costly battle at the ballot box in November. Los Angeles Times, 27 Apr. 2022 The results, showing that no single party won a clear majority, presage a period of political haggling as rival groups try to stitch together a stable coalition in parliament. New York Times, 24 Apr. 2022 At a 2018 press conference announcing the arrest of 21 of 22 suspects in the church-adjacent shootout between rival groups of high schoolers that ended with Rice dead and another victim injured, Lott described the prosecution as a landmark. NBC News, 17 Apr. 2022 That effort ends a decade of bitter competition for influence across the Arab world that saw Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia back rival groups, factions, and militias in the region. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, 14 Apr. 2022 Akron dominated a battle of red-hot Northeast Ohio teams to claim the 2022 Mid-American Conference tournament championship with a 75-55 victory over backyard rival Kent State. Matthew Glenesk, The Indianapolis Star, 14 Mar. 2022 Akron dominated a battle of red-hot Northeast Ohio teams to claim the 2022 Mid-American Conference tournament championship with a 75-55 victory over backyard rival Kent State. Matthew Glenesk, The Courier-Journal, 14 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Several opposition parties called the appointment of a man who was, until recently, seen as Rajapaksa’s rival an unsavory deal to keep the president in power. Gerry Shih, Washington Post, 12 May 2022 Creating strong private-label offerings to rival national brands would be one of his legacies in the supermarket industry, said Lorr. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, 7 May 2022 Good relationships equal or sometimes rival the product for customers who have more options than ever. Stephan Rabimov, Forbes, 7 May 2022 In Wolfman and Pérez's hands, New Teen Titans came to rival even Marvel's X-Men comics in popularity and acclaim. Christian Holub, EW.com, 7 May 2022 Wanna go full-glam with bronzy lids, chiseled contouring, and lashes to rival those of Snuffleupagus? Jihan Forbes, Allure, 3 May 2022 The British movie star is a stellar stage actor, not to mention a man with a muscular body that looks hard enough to the touch to rival any tree trunk of Burnham Wood. Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, 29 Apr. 2022 There is no Holy War (Jesuit vs. Central Catholic) scheduled for 2022, but the Crusaders will play host to rival Beaverton on Oct. 28. oregonlive, 29 Apr. 2022 The Force is with Duke Despite bowing out to rival North Carolina in the Final Four meeting, both BetMGM and the Las Vegas SuperBook posted Duke as a future-book favorite next season. Lance Pugmire, USA TODAY, 7 Apr. 2022 See More

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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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Rival.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rival. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for rival


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on rival

Nglish: Translation of rival for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rival for Arabic Speakers


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