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

By contrast, its NBC rival, The Voice, topped Monday night, earning a 1.2 rating with 7.49 million viewers. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Will 'American Idol' Be Canceled After the 2019 Season? Here's What the Ratings Really Mean," 27 Apr. 2019 The issue became a key dividing line between Sanders and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Cardi B Said She Hates Donald Trump and Might Support Bernie Sanders in 2020," 16 Apr. 2019 Lime and its main rivals, Bird and Spin, have launched scooter-rental services in more than 100 cities. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Silicon Valley may have a Saudi Arabia problem," 12 Oct. 2018 Barletta paid little attention to his Republican rival, state Rep. Jim Christiana, during the primary campaign. Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, "Barletta, Trump backer, wins GOP nod to take on Sen. Casey," 2 Oct. 2018 Yet their rivals, the debt-paying Lannisters, could be swimming in gold come Emmys night. refinery29.com, "The 2018 Emmys Love The Lannisters More Than The Starks," 12 July 2018 Kevin Nicholson's political past just popped up in a negative television ad launched Tuesday by a group supporting his Republican Party rival, Leah Vukmir. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Group backing Leah Vukmir launches negative TV ad against Kevin Nicholson in Wisconsin Senate race," 10 July 2018 In late 2017 its rival Match Group, owner of Tinder, reportedly tried to buy the company for more than $1 billion. Chloe Malle, Vogue, "Inside Dating-App Bumble’s Bid For Global Domination," 18 Apr. 2019 The Trump administration argues China is using the plan to give its tech companies unfair advantage over foreign rivals. Yoko Kubota, WSJ, "Amazon’s E-Commerce Adventure in China Proved Too Much of a Jungle," 18 Apr. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Its accounting methods vary from rival Lyft, but both companies could make things clearer for investors. Lauren Silva Laughlin, WSJ, "Uber’s Greater Clarity on Costs Not Reassuring," 20 Apr. 2019 But the musical comedy sketch parodying A Chorus Line, starring Kristin Chenoweth and O’Donnell as rival elves auditioning for a job for Santa, takes the whimsical cake of the evening. Liz Arcury, Marie Claire, "The 8 Best Celebrity Holiday Specials Ever," 29 Nov. 2018 Witnesses and family members told police the home where the shooting occurred belonged to Rashaad Walker Jr., a 20-month-old who was shot in 2010 amid a rival gang shootout, the Post-Standard reported. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "Shooting at Syracuse, NY, memorial service leaves 5 injured, including children, 8 and 14," 21 Sep. 2018 This is the first in a two-part project that attempts to answer those questions, guided by conversations with Royals officials, rival executives and coverage of the organization from the start of the rise in 2006. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "The State of the Royals, Part 1 of 2: How did they get here?," 12 July 2018 Last year, Tan launched an ambitious attempt to grow even bigger — through the purchase of rival mobile-chip maker Qualcomm Inc. Fortune, "Broadcom to Buy CA Technologies for $19 Billion," 11 July 2018 Elsewhere, a China-U.S. trade war looks like good news for rival soybean, dairy, and meat exporters in neutral Australia, Brazil, and Argentina. Joseph N. Distefano, Philly.com, "New Trump import fees: How will China fight back?," 11 July 2018 That scene embodied a revolution Ditko helped push at Marvel: Spider-Man was a hero a world apart from the costumed millionaires Superman and Batman at rival DC Comics. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Steve Ditko’s Ordinary People," 10 July 2018 Instagram will soon account for a sizable part of owner Facebook’s revenue growth, and also keeps Facebook connected to younger people online while helping fend off a potential threat from rival Snapchat. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Inside the $21 billion market to track your every move," 11 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

So Goodman asked Lee and Kirby to come up with a superhero team that could rival the Justice League. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Stan Lee, the godfather of Marvel comics, dies at 95," 12 Nov. 2018 But now, with the rise of Audible, Amazon finally has a content production arm that can rival the large New York publishing houses. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Amazon’s Audiobook Boom," 2 July 2018 Some are as safe as any in the country — others have shooting and homicide rates that rival the most dangerous places in the world. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Some refugees resettling in America find gun violence instead of peace," 27 June 2018 Greater Cincinnati also boasts a very vibrant social and cultural community that rivals that of any big city without the difficulties of getting around that often occur in the larger cities. Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Greater Cincinnati Collegiate Connection Scholarship Essay Contest 2018 “Why Greater Cincinnati?”," 22 June 2018 My travails to snag it — risking it being seized by customs, overpaying sellers, weathering formula changes — surely rival those of the Arthurian knights who searched for their own Holy Grail in medieval lore. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "The “best” lipstick probably won’t change your life — but the search for it can," 12 Dec. 2018 At the end of the workshop, Bait al Nay provides tools and machines needed to cut, drill, and shape a traditional nay whose sound could rival those of the grandparents’ generation. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "In rediscovered reed flute, a soulful link to Jordanian identity," 13 July 2018 Starry uses a type of extremely high-frequency radio technology to deliver broadband Internet service at speeds rivaling those from landline broadband companies such as Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications. BostonGlobe.com, "Starry completes a $100 million funding round," 7 July 2018 Graham built Evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States, the Associated Press reports. Eileen Reslen, Good Housekeeping, "Kathie Lee Gifford Gets Emotional Remembering Evangelical Pastor Billy Graham," 21 Feb. 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

11 May 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

What made you want to look up rival? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something valued as if it were money

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