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

Earlier rumors and reports pointed to the 2020 iPhone as the likeliest candidate to add 5G support, even though mobile carriers and Apple’s Android rivals are going to be rolling the new technology out all through 2019. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "Don’t expect a 5G iPhone before 2020," 3 Dec. 2018 Cloud computing now accounts for more than a quarter of Microsoft’s revenue, and Microsoft rivals Amazon as a leading provider of such services. Matt O'brien, The Seattle Times, "Apple’s stock sours, Microsoft’s soars. Say what?!," 27 Nov. 2018 Come for the holiday theme, stay for the story of two business rivals who are unknowingly in love via the earliest version of the web. Vogue, "13 Movies You Totally Forgot Were Set on Thanksgiving," 22 Nov. 2018 The cross-country team at the next town over, Chico High School, Price’s rival, heard what happened to the runner and decided to rerun the qualifier so Price could participate. Christianna Silva, Teen Vogue, "California's Fires Lead to School Closings, Poor Air Quality, and Public Service Shutdowns as Death Toll Climbs," 16 Nov. 2018 The third and second presidents had been close friends and staunch political rivals. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "John McCain Died Nine Years to the Day After His Close Friend Ted Kennedy," 27 Aug. 2018 Powerwall has rivals in the storage arena, including Sonnen and Swell. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, "Burning for Tesla Powerwall? Get ready to wait as Musk's solar vision takes a backseat to Model 3," 13 July 2018 Waymo also has hundreds of other patents developed in-house, or bought from rivals. Mark Harris, Ars Technica, "Vigilante engineer stops Waymo from patenting key lidar technology," 1 Oct. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Sometimes the rules can appear arbitrary, like in August when Beijing ruled to limit new licenses for games, freezing out Tencent and rival gaming companies from putting out new products. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "China is making the internet less free, and US tech companies are helping," 2 Nov. 2018 Amazon’s move to New York pits it against rival Google, which is gearing up for its own expansion in the city. Keiko Morris, WSJ, "Amazon Picks New York City, Northern Virginia for Its HQ2 Locations," 13 Nov. 2018 Disney, after all, is developing its own streaming service to rival Netflix, and is presently building out its own catalog of original content. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Netflix has canceled Marvel’s Luke Cage," 20 Oct. 2018 On Wednesday, rival American Eagle Outfitters reported better-than expected second-quarter profit and sales. Fox News, "Abercrombie & Fitch's 2Q sales fall short; shares drop," 30 Aug. 2018 Mark Haneke of Sacramento International Airport said Tuesday's announcement by Alaska allows it to stake a bigger claim on service to Hawaii before rival Southwest begins its flights. Tony Bizjak, sacbee, "Sacramentans get nonstop flights to Kona as Hawaiian air wars heat up," 19 June 2018 The company in 2011 withdrew its bid to buy rival T-Mobile in the face of government opposition. Ryan Faughnder, latimes.com, "AT&T-Time Warner ruling gives a green light to media companies to consolidate," 13 June 2018 While Netflix and Amazon had big presentation spaces last year, rival Hulu became the first streaming service to win a series Emmy, for The Handmaid's Tale. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "Zach Galifianakis serves Arby's? The insane explosion of Emmy campaigning," 6 June 2018 Oregon State and Reser Stadium will host rival Oregon in the 122nd Civil War on Friday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. on FS1. Sean Meagher, OregonLive.com, "Oregon State Beavers football season opener, Civil War kickoff times & TV channels set," 31 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

On the issues, health care is rivaled only by immigration in the 2018 midterms — and, in a remarkable reversal from 2010, Democrats have been on the offensive. Dylan Scott, Vox, "The 2 House Republicans who put it all on the line for Obamacare repeal could lose Tuesday," 5 Nov. 2018 The heated campaigns for some of those seats, in Arkansas, North Carolina, West Virginia and elsewhere, have already rivaled those for Congress or governor in their intensity. Andrew Demillo, The Seattle Times, "State supreme court battles mirror the fight over Kavanaugh," 2 Oct. 2018 The movie is buzzy AF, but Gaga's dress rivals the film as thing-most-worth-talking-about from the premiere. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Lady Gaga Looked Like a Giant, Beautiful Stick of Cotton Candy at the Venice Film Festival," 1 Sep. 2018 Premier League rivals Manchester United are also thought to be interested, and could reportedly offer Anthony Martial as a part exchange. SI.com, "Unai Emery Reportedly Identifies Barcelona Star Ousmane Dembele as the Club's Top Target This Summer," 10 July 2018 This list of 128 goods rivals the $2.7 billion worth of Chinese steel and aluminum imports that the Trump administration decided to tax in March. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, "A timeline of how the U.S.-China trade war led us to this ‘code red’ situation," 5 July 2018 Prime Wardrobe will rival established online shopping and subscription services like Stitch Fix and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club, though those services offer a personal stylist. Ryan Suppe, ajc, "Amazon Prime members can now try on clothes before paying for them," 21 June 2018 The weather was so dismal Monday that a Boston Globe story debated whether the conditions rivaled a 100-degree scorcher in 1905 as the worst in history. Bryce Miller, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Boston Marathon fear of Chula Vista winner Linden: 'Don't blow it'," 16 Apr. 2018 The excursion begins in St. Petersburg with a visit to the Hermitage Museum and Peterhof, built by Peter the Great to rival Versailles, as well as a private concert at the palace of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich. Anne Harnagel, latimes.com, "Russia fall tour will school you on foreign policy and history," 29 Mar. 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





Statistics for rival

Last Updated

7 Dec 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

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