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

The indictment targets at least 21 people who are accused of violent acts in the name of the gang that includes murder of rivals and anyone cooperating with or perceived as cooperating with law enforcement. Steve Almasy, CNN, "MS-13 members hacked up one victim and cut out his heart, federal indictment says," 16 July 2019 The uptick in spending shows Amazon Prime Day continues to have strong appeal to shoppers despite competing sales events offered by rivals from Walmart to Target and EBay. Author: Spencer Soper, Anchorage Daily News, "Amazon shoppers snatch up deals on potato chips and toilet paper," 16 July 2019 The current situation will disturb the market share of IndiGo but rivals still have a long way to go to dethrone it from the top position. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "Despite the boardroom tussle, IndiGo may hold on to its top spot in Indian aviation," 12 July 2019 Sources with knowledge of the metrics told FT the company's premium streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited, grew 70% over the past year, a faster rate than that of rivals like Spotify and Apple Music. Chris Eggertsen, Billboard, "Amazon Music Reportedly Hits 32M Subscribers, Up 70% Since Last Year," 11 July 2019 The deal is a setback for Sherwin-Williams as a few big U.S. paint makers buy up small rivals and jostle for market share. Austen Hufford, WSJ, "Berkshire Hathaway’s Benjamin Moore to Become Main Paint Supplier for Ace Hardware," 10 July 2019 Federer's rival and friend, Rafael Nadal, felt differently about the rule. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Roger Federer criticizes age rule that limits Cori 'Coco' Gauff," 9 July 2019 For American rivals and foes, the criticism was pointed. Washington Post, "The not-so-secret history of ambassadors trashing their hosts," 9 July 2019 In other words, Slack has the same problem as Snapchat, which has suffered from its bigger rival Facebook’s relentless appropriation. Rani Molla, Vox, "Microsoft Teams isn’t better than Slack, but it is freer.," 9 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

By 1842, the state had two rival governments: a constitutional one led by Governor Thomas Dorr and a charter one led by Governor William King. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Make the Guarantee Clause Great Again," 17 July 2019 The team snapped a 14-game losing streak against rival Wisconsin and beat Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl, securing Minnesota’s first winning season since 2016. Matt Murschel, orlandosentinel.com, "2019 College Football Rankings: No. 39 Minnesota looks to build on winning season," 17 July 2019 But Meadows has shown some flashes, impressing rival talent evaluators with his athleticism. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers mid-season prospect rankings: Projecting their arrivals," 17 July 2019 Since Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster in 2011, Libya has been split between rival governments in the east and the west and an array of militias fighting over power and oil fields. Washington Post, "Libya official: Car bombs explode near LNA leaders, 4 killed," 12 July 2019 The promise of perfect photos is why we and dozens of other people from rival tour groups are packed into industrial-size vans at 8 in the morning, and Anthony knows how to take all the best ones. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "Everyone wants to Instagram the world’s most beautiful canyon. Should they?," 11 July 2019 Following his demise, the country fractured into civil war between rival governments, ethnic militias, and various armed gangs. Abigail Haworth, Marie Claire, "The Lost Daughters of Salerno," 1 July 2019 As a result, there was a danger that by the time Waymo's technology was ready for commercialization, most of the world's car manufacturing technology would be committed to rival self-driving companies. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Waymo forges self-driving alliance with Renault and Nissan," 20 June 2019 The gravel-mining operation successfully sued the county for a landmark $107 million judgment last year, arguing county officials put them out of business for the benefit of a rival construction company. sacbee, "Funds to fix ‘inhumane’ jail conditions added in Sacramento County’s $4.4 billion budget plan," 4 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Assange’s authority appeared at times to rival that of the ambassador. Cnn.com Wire Service, The Mercury News, "A deeper look at Assange’s operation inside Ecuadorian Embassy," 15 July 2019 But over the last few years, the gardens and plant collections have been elevated to rival the museum. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "Need summer plant inspiration? Here are 4 beautiful gardens to visit near Louisville," 5 July 2019 Apex Legends, a new FPS entry into the category from the creators of Titanfall, is the closest any game has come to rivaling Epic’s behemoth since PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds died down. Nick Romano, EW.com, "10 best videogames of 2019 (so far)," 27 June 2019 Bristol-Myers had lost its advantage in immunotherapy treatment of lung cancer to rival Merck & Co. Jared S. Hopkins, WSJ, "Behind Spate of Drug Deals, the Need for Short-Term Growth," 25 June 2019 To the east, in Awadh, the baroque towers of Lucknow rose to rival those built by the Nizam in Hyderabad to the south. The New York Review of Books, "‘Treasures of a Desert Kingdom: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India’," 17 June 2019 With more than 100 million Prime members, Amazon’s concert has the potential to have a massive audience that could rival the Super Bowl. NBC News, "From Taylor Swift to the NBA, watching live events online is the VIP way to see a show," 2 July 2019 Those monitoring the ice sheet say melting in 2019 could rival it. Jason Samenow, BostonGlobe.com, "The Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet have seen record ice loss in June," 16 June 2019 Those monitoring the ice sheet say melting in 2019 could rival it. Jason Samenow, Anchorage Daily News, "Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet seeing record June ice loss," 14 June 2019

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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Learn More about rival

Dictionary Entries near rival



rivage green





Statistics for rival

Last Updated

20 Jul 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

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to complain fretfully

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