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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His main rival, the Conservative Shaun Bailey, is polling only 28%, compared to Khan’s 41%, according to the most recent polls. Guy Davies, ABC News, "The actor, the YouTuber, and the American businessman: Meet the eccentric cast vying to be London’s next Mayor," 2 May 2021 And his fascinating family includes two older football-playing brothers: Osiris, who has one year of eligibility remaining at Stanford, and Equanimious, who plays for Amon-Ra's new division rival, the Green Bay Packers. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "New Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown was bred to be a star at an early age," 1 May 2021 Eight days later, Wilson signed with BYU, saying in the time since that the opportunity to play closer to home and family -- despite his own family ties to BYU’s rival, Utah -- was too good to pass up. Tom Green | Tgreen@al.com, al, "What the 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft told us about Bryan Harsin’s eye for quarterbacks," 30 Apr. 2021 When attention does wander away from China, it is typically trained on its up-and-coming rival, India, a source of rising emissions in its own right and a country that Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, visited earlier in April. Jordan Mcgillis, National Review, "Climate Eyes Are on China, But What about ASEAN?," 29 Apr. 2021 Boeing recorded 76 orders net of cancellations for the quarter, well ahead of its European rival Airbus, which had 61 more cancellations than orders. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, "For Boeing, Delivering Will Be Tough," 28 Apr. 2021 Now Agnelli, who had quickly become a lightning rod for the Super League, was called a traitor by the chairman of Juventus’s crosstown rival, Torino. New York Times, "How the Super League Fell Apart," 22 Apr. 2021 But the Capitol’s chief rival, the Star Theatre, planned on fighting hard for its leading place in the city’s burlesque scene. oregonlive, "Tempest Storm, who became world’s most popular stripper after a terrifying experience in Portland, dies at 93," 21 Apr. 2021 Despite the increase, none of those games will be against the Raptors’ former Pioneer League rival, the Orem Owlz. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Ogden Raptors enter new ‘Partner-League’ Era, but expect better level of play," 18 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Switching shoe companies is not uncommon for top basketball players, whose sneaker contracts can pay tens of millions of dollars annually and rival or even exceed their N.B.A. contracts in value. Kevin Draper, New York Times, "Kobe Bryant’s Nike Contract Expired. The Implications Are Complex.," 21 Apr. 2021 In the end, a painful sweep to the rival Ducks could be a blessing in disguise. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, "Oregon State baseball has ‘reality check’ after embarrassing weekend," 16 Apr. 2021 Both Mastercard and rival Visa had begun looking into Pornhub after a New York Times column accused the website of distributing videos depicting child abuse and non-consensual violence. BostonGlobe.com, "Constant Contact has a new CEO," 14 Apr. 2021 If granted, the land title would help protect the women and their livelihoods from clashes over land and water that frequently break out between the Samburu and rival communities. Dominic Kirui, The Christian Science Monitor, "Kenyan women can own land too: A women-only village inspires others," 22 Mar. 2021 WeChat and rival Alipay—were already ubiquitous in China, making adoption almost frictionless. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "Vaccine passports to travel freely are still a dream—except in China," 13 Mar. 2021 Nelson Cruz, who had been convicted at age 17 of shooting a rival dead in the streets of Brooklyn, had spent two decades insisting on his innocence and seeking a hearing to have his conviction revisited. Joe Sexton, ProPublica, "Ruling on Murder Case by Judge Suffering From Dementia Will Stand, Court Says," 5 Mar. 2021 The Boilermakers, who host the reeling and rival Hoosiers on Saturday, are ranked for the first time in nearly a month. ... Larry Lage, Star Tribune, "Big Ten this week: No. 2 Michigan, Michigan State play twice," 4 Mar. 2021 Supply is also likely to be limited, as Samsung and rival SK Hynix - two of the largest producers - have scaled back on DRAM capital expenditures. Trefis Team, Forbes, "What’s Happening With Samsung Stock?," 3 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These traits add a valuable layer of security that traditional artworks could never rival with their eternally dubious off-chain certificates of authenticity and provenance documents. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Increasing the Capital-Gains Tax — Penalizing Initiative, Enterprise, and Not Just ‘the Rich’," 23 Apr. 2021 Wrigley believes his cannabis concern could one day rival his family’s chewing gum business. Will Yakowicz, Forbes, "Billionaire Beau Wrigley To Expand Cannabis Company To Illinois," 6 Apr. 2021 Alo is a Seventeen reader favorite known for their light-as-air, soft-as-butter Airlift Leggings that could rival Lululemon, tbh. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Kendall Jenner Wears Alo Yoga's Famous Airlift Leggings and Sports Bra – Here's Where to Shop Them," 1 Apr. 2021 Democrats today have plenty of good ideas but seem reluctant to choose which ones to craft into an image that could rival the appeal of Reaganism, for purposes the right-wing icon would have abhorred. Michael Kazin, The New Republic, "How the Democratic Party Can Create a Majoritarian Coalition," 11 Feb. 2021 Known for being a magnetic speaker, with his wide eyes and mercurial temperament, Baldwin was also an irresistible presence and very clearly an intellectual star few could rival. New York Times, "The People James Baldwin Knew," 11 Dec. 2020 Avon Lake boasted a defense that could rival state champions Hoban and Chardon. Matt Goul, cleveland, "Archbishop Hoban reigns atop final cleveland.com high school football Top 25," 23 Nov. 2020 The good news is that Apple’s competitors are putting out devices that rival the MacBook and for the most part deliver the same kind of quality and performance. Gene Marks, Forbes, "The Best Apple MacBook Pro Alternatives For 2021 …And Other Small Business Tech News," 4 Apr. 2021 And if Friday's games rival the First Four in terms of down-to-the-wire finishes and drama, college basketball fans will be in for a real treat. USA TODAY, "March Madness live updates: The scores and moments you need to know from Friday at NCAA Tournament," 19 Mar. 2021

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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Statistics for rival

Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rival.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rival. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on rival

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rival

Nglish: Translation of rival for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rival for Arabic Speakers

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