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

ISPs can already offer their own streaming video services and use data caps to steer customers away from rival services. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Google Stadia exec isn’t worried about data caps—but he probably should be," 1 July 2019 After losing to rival Graff in 1988 and 1989, Navratilova fended off knee issues to win her record ninth title in dominant form. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Ranking the 10 most iconic Wimbledon moments of the Open era," 1 July 2019 The un-Green request was gleefully reported on Twitter by a spokesman for a rival party. Sara Germano, WSJ, "Germany Scorned Air Conditioning—Then Came the Heat Wave," 30 June 2019 Essentially, a rival team would trade for Smith, pay his small guarantee for the upcoming season and save around $11 million against the cap. Chris Fedor, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Cavaliers, JR Smith agree to push back guarantee date on contract, giving team more time to search for trade," 29 June 2019 Among the questions that have arisen: Should gas stations and 7-Elevens in rival territory be off-limits? Nicole Santa Cruz, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Nipsey Hussle’s death unified Crips and Bloods in grief. Now, peace talks carry on his call," 23 June 2019 This time out, Pixar had to contend with rival film The Secret Life of Pets. Pamela Mcclintock, The Hollywood Reporter, "Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' No. 1 With $118M U.S. Bow, Clears $238M Globally," 23 June 2019 One by one, manufacturers that specialized for the better part of a century in premium sports cars and chauffeured saloons have bowed to recent pressure to keep customers who want taller vehicles from defecting to rival brands. Jaclyn Trop, Fortune, "The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Is a Diamond Designed for Rough Terrain," 22 June 2019 Sanders was a member of a Bloods gang and people that Jackson had been hanging out with in the parking lot were associated with a rival gang, Vasquez said. oregonlive.com, "Man who fatally shot teen in the head in Southeast Portland parking lot gets 20 years," 21 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 The market could ultimately rival Colorado’s marijuana market. Ally Marotti, chicagotribune.com, "Marijuana dispensary rolls out its own credit card as weed industry works to go beyond cash-only sales," 14 June 2019 The crowds that could gather for games involving Hughes could rival what former NBA players OJ Mayo and Bill Walker had during their stint at North College Hill. Scott Springer, Cincinnati.com, "Why you should pay attention to high school freshman hooper Rayvon Griffith," 13 June 2019 The addition of Streep only confirms that TV is now capable of drawing ensembles that could rival those of any Ocean’s movie. Judy Berman, Time, "With Meryl Streep on Big Little Lies, It's Time to Admit That Film and TV Are Converging," 6 June 2019 With five four- or five-star prospects already in the fold and more than a dozen others seriously considering Kentucky, the 2020 class could rival the 2014 one by the time players have their first opportunity to sign in December. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Could 2020 Kentucky football recruiting class be Mark Stoops' highest-rated?," 21 May 2019 Vanguard is now ending the service on July 31, an acknowledgment the offering couldn’t rival what banks provide. ... Dawn Lim, WSJ, "Vanguard to End Cash-Management Service for Larger Customers," 3 Mar. 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

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


an act or instance of editing or removing

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