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)

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for rival

Synonyms: Noun

challenger, competition, competitor, contender, contestant, corrival

Synonyms: Verb

battle, compete, contend, face off, fight, race, vie

Antonyms: Noun


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

West Ham brought in Ryan Fredericks from Fulham and Manchester United signed Diogo Dalot from Sporting's rivals Porto. SI.com, "Man Utd & West Ham Reportedly Locked in Battle for Sporting CP Full Back Cristiano Piccini," 13 July 2018 The company faces hard questions about its long-term growth amid slowing hardware sales and competition from rivals like Google and Amazon. Daniel Arkin /, NBC News, "Apple's script for conquering Hollywood is a mystery so far," 13 July 2018 The tie-up caps years of talks between the two, while extending the duopoly held by Boeing and Airbus as competitive threats emerge from rivals in Russia, Japan and China. Fabiola Moura, latimes.com, "Boeing takes control of Embraer's commercial jet business in $4.75-billion deal," 5 July 2018 The tie-up caps years of talks between the two, while extending the duopoly held by Boeing and Airbus as competitive threats emerge from rivals in Russia, Japan and China. Fortune, "Boeing and Embraer Are Forming a $4.75 Billion Commercial Jet Venture," 5 July 2018 The tie-up comes as even the biggest retailers come under intense pressure from Internet rivals, with convenience and low prices persuading more people to shop online through sites like Amazon. BostonGlobe.com, "No more plastic straws in Seattle," 2 July 2018 DirecTV Now is raising its prices, following price hikes from rivals Sling TV and YouTube TV within the last few months, as spotted by Cord Cutters. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "DirecTV Now will raise its prices by $5 later this month," 2 July 2018 Joseph DeNardi, an airline industry analyst at the investment company Stifel, also noted that in the United States, no-frills carriers like Spirit had not aimed to win business away from their biggest rivals. New York Times, "Paris Beckons as a Fare War Turns Europe Into a Bargain," 2 July 2018 YouTube executives have minimized the threat from rivals, citing statistics about the growing number of people who make a living on the site. Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg.com, "YouTube Is Offering a Talent Option to Sell Subscriptions," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 Sprint's wireless network in Kansas City has slowed as the company pushes for a merger with rival T-Mobile, according to the most recent testing by RootMetrics. Mark Davis, kansascity, "Sprint’s network slows down in its hometown as the push for a T-Mobile merger begins," 21 June 2018 That meant Comcast, which owns MSNBC, was banned from deliberately slowing the connection speeds of customers live-streaming news on rival CNN or even on Facebook. The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, sacbee, "The fight for net neutrality isn’t just for consumers. It’s a fight for California," 15 June 2018 Holmes and Theranos’s PR team deflected these critics by citing intellectual property concerns and suggesting that any complaints were being planted by rival testing companies such as Quest and Laboratory Corporation. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes has been charged with criminal fraud," 15 June 2018 The Comcast offer sets up a battle with Disney, which has plans to create a streaming media service to rival Netflix and wants Fox TV shows and movies to lure subscribers. NBC News, "Comcast offers $65 billion for Twenty-First Century Fox assets," 13 June 2018 Comcast is expected to make a possible play for the Fox assets so that a combined Universal-20th Century Fox film studio can compete better globally with rival Walt Disney's movie production. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, "Mega Sky, Fox Deals Would Boost Comcast's Worldwide Profile, NBCUniversal's Kevin MacLellan Says," 11 June 2018 Along with Ivan Rakitic, who plies his trade with Madrid rival Barcelona, Modric’s ability to impose his will on the game will potentially be decisive for Croatia. Hayden Bird, BostonGlobe.com, "What to know about the World Cup title match," 14 July 2018 Investors haven’t been impressed so far by aggressive cost cutting at Kraft Heinz (khc, +0.17%); shares in the packaged-foods giant have fallen more than 35% since rival Unilever rejected its takeover bid in February 2017. Ryan Derousseau, Fortune, "Three Stocks to Own in Risky Times," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The goal is to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year, rivaling production at its Fremont, Calif., factory and marking the biggest step in Tesla’s overseas expansion. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: The U.K. slaps Facebook with its first fine for the Cambridge Analytica data fiasco," 11 July 2018 Martina Navratilova—a woman who speaks with authority rivaled by few and one who hardly holds retrograde views on matters of gender—has a thought-provoking theory. Jon Wertheim, SI.com, "Five Thoughts From Day Five at Wimbledon," 6 July 2018 The event, televised on ESPN, attracts thousands of in-person spectators and has rivaled sporting events for its competitive flair. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Joey Chestnut downs 64 hot dogs for his 11th win in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest," 4 July 2018 Certainly, mortgage rates were higher four and half decades ago, but the march higher this year rivals the steady increases back then. Tom Hudson, miamiherald, "Mortgage costs building up," 1 July 2018 No matter how Longoria’s family celebrated the win, their festivities likely couldn’t rival what happened in Mexico City during the team’s first World Cup victory last week. Maria Pasquini, PEOPLE.com, "Baby's First Game! Eva Longoria’s Newborn Son Sports Mini Jersey While Supporting Mexico in World Cup," 23 June 2018 Some hotels stage holiday celebrations rivaling a small town's festivities. Dawn Gilbertson, azcentral, "Last-minute Fourth of July hotel deals in Phoenix, Scottsdale," 22 June 2018 LakePoint started with hopes of rivaling ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, letting parents from across the country attending youth sports tournaments stay, eat and play just over the Cobb County line. Ben Brasch, ajc, "Bankruptcy means wake-up call for field of dreams at Cobb-Bartow line," 14 June 2018 Best of all is their price range, which rivals that of Ikea’s own slipcover replacements. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "5 Companies That Will Make Your Ikea Furniture Seem Custom-Made," 13 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about rival

Dictionary Entries near rival



rivage green





Phrases Related to rival

mortal foe/rival

Statistics for rival

Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rival

The first known use of rival was in 1577

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


not any or not one

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!