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

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 But a series of ads earlier this year from President Trump’s 2020 campaign that contained falsehoods about Democratic rival Joe Biden cast fresh doubt on Facebook’s hands-off approach to political speech. Washington Post, "Facebook has floated limiting political ads and labeling that they aren’t fact-checked, riling 2020 campaigns," 4 Dec. 2019 The Blazers got off to a 6-1 start before a two-game skid required wins in their remaining three games while getting help from cross-division opponents in eliminating division rivals from contention. Evan Dudley, al, "UAB prepares to face FAU in CUSA title game," 4 Dec. 2019 The Aggies are licking their wounds from a 50-7 shellacking at SEC rival LSU, their worst loss to the Tigers in 58 meetings, the first 50 of the non-conference variety. Brent Zwerneman, ExpressNews.com, "Alluring as it is, A&M-UT matchup in Texas Bowl seems unlikely," 3 Dec. 2019 Often described as India's Silicon Valley, the city is also the main India base for Amazon (AMZN), Flipkart's main rival, the birthplace of ride-hailing firm Ola and home to leading outsourcing companies such as Infosys (INFY) and Wipro (WIT). Natalie Croker, CNN, "Toxic air and gridlock: India's tech cities are choking on their success," 3 Dec. 2019 One, did the president of the United States ask another country to interfere in the upcoming 2020 election — against possible Democratic rival Joe Biden? NBC News, "The impeachment fight boils down to these four simple questions," 2 Dec. 2019 Amazon trails rivals in its move into quantum computing. Wired, "Amazon Joins Tech’s Great Quantum Computing Race," 2 Dec. 2019 Prediction Oregon 49, Oregon State 21 Oregon (-1000) opens this contest as a monster home favorite against its in-state rival Oregon State (+565). Chris Wassel, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Oregon State at Oregon odds, picks and best bets," 30 Nov. 2019 Charles Schwab, America’s biggest discount broker, struck a $26bn deal to acquire td Ameritrade, a rival. The Economist, "Business this week," 30 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Kaling plays Audra — first introduced in episode 2 as an anchor at a rival network to The Morning Show — who attempts to poach Daniel (Desean Terry), one of Alex Levy’s (Jennifer Aniston) junior anchors. Georgia Slater, PEOPLE.com, "Mindy Kaling Recreates Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods: ‘Am I Doing This Right?’," 4 Dec. 2019 In 2016, Tidal touted a subscriber base of 3 million users, but the service’s growth seems to have stunted, especially as rival company’s continue to dominate the playing field. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Jay Z's music library makes surprise return to Spotify after two years," 4 Dec. 2019 The hearing came as PG&E has tried to advance its own plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection — a blueprint that is competing against a rival vision backed by a group of bondholders and the fire victims’ committee. J.d. Morris, SFChronicle.com, "Bankruptcy judge weighs PG&E’s $11 billion insurance company deal," 4 Dec. 2019 The Mexican government has suggested the families may not have been the target of the attack, claiming the gunmen possibly mistook the families’ large SUVs for those of a rival gang. Fox News, "Mexican cartel massacre suspects arrested in attack that left 9 Americans dead, government says," 3 Dec. 2019 Tau Castellon plays the part of Cornelius Barrington, the rival reporter. Arkansas Online, "Batesville theater students to present Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," 2 Dec. 2019 But there are softer spots to make a first career start than the stadium of the rival team. oregonlive, "Oregon State’s season ends with a 24-10 loss to Oregon, but the program’s future, says Jalen Moore, is ‘headed for greatness’," 1 Dec. 2019 Kin Cheung/Associated Press HONG KONG — Even by the standards of Hong Kong, where the ups and downs of the stock market rival events at the horse track as a spectator sport, three recent flameouts have been spectacular. Alexandra Stevenson, New York Times, "Plunge in 3 Hong Kong Stocks Offers a Cautionary Tale," 1 Dec. 2019 At the age of 16, he was tried as an adult and convicted of second-degree murder after participating in a ride-along with a gang that ended in the death of a rival gang member. Gabrielle Canon, USA TODAY, "Jessica Jackson, a single mom from California, took on the prison system — and changed her life," 29 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Centennial will face Northwest Suburban Conference rival Maple Grove in the championship match at 3 p.m. Thursday. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, "Class 2A girls soccer: Centennial edges Rosemount in OT to advance to state final," 28 Oct. 2019 The Week 9 schedule includes the annual game between Coliseum League rivals Dorsey and host Crenshaw on Friday night. Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times, "City Section look-ahead: Eagle Rock closes in on Northern League championship," 21 Oct. 2019 Even as October baseball rears its exciting head around the corner, the Houston Astros' American League rivals the New York Yankees put their playoff differences aside to honor the late Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "New York Yankees send condolences for fallen Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal," 3 Oct. 2019 With a repeat or better of his junior season – 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals – only Payton can rival Tinkle in overall career statistics. oregonlive, "Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle on eve of Beavers’ first 2019-20 practice: ‘The last thing I need to do … is play in the NCAA tournament’," 23 Sep. 2019 At least two of Biden’s rivals called on fellow Democrats in the House to push forward on impeachment of Trump. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Biden decries reports about Trump, Ukraine’s president," 20 Sep. 2019 In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which made landfall on the Bahamas on September 1st as the strongest hurricane recorded in the islands’ history, Floridians with boats and planes began an evacuation that rivalled Dunkirk in its approach. Emily Witt, The New Yorker, "A Haphazard Recovery in the Bahamas," 16 Sep. 2019 The 6-foot-1, 210-pound quarterback/safety had just led his team to a shutout win over Lafayette Friday night, wrapping up a sweep of Chambers County rivals after defeating Valley to open the season. al, "Why 4-star Alabama commit relishes being smalltown role model," 3 Sep. 2019 The only class that has rivaled us in size were the Watergate Babies, against a very similar backdrop of corruption and chaos, right. CBS News, "Gayle King's interview with "the Squad": Read the full transcript," 17 July 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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Time Traveler for rival

Time Traveler

The first known use of rival was in 1577

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Statistics for rival

Last Updated

7 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Rival.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rivalling?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=r&file=rival002. Accessed 8 December 2019.

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More Definitions for rival


How to pronounce rival (audio)

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).


to constrict the range or activity of

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