ri·​val·​ry | \ ˈrī-vəl-rē How to pronounce rivalry (audio) \
plural rivalries

Definition of rivalry

: the act of rivaling : the state of being a rival : competition

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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 rivalry in a Sentence

There is a bitter rivalry between the two groups. a strong sense of rivalry

Recent Examples on the Web

The Hawkeyes are on a hot four-game win streak in the rivalry, which dates to 1894, and a 44–22 overall edge in the series. Emily Caron, SI.com, "Best Signs From ESPN's Week 1 'College GameDay' Broadcast From Iowa-Iowa State," 14 Sep. 2019 But there's plenty of interesting rivalry and conference showdowns that have potential to make things interesting. Usa Today Sports, USA TODAY, "USA TODAY Sports college football staff picks for Week 3 of the season," 12 Sep. 2019 This year on Chicken Girls, familiar faces like Ty (Paul Toweh) and Luna (Aliyah Moulden) juggle drivers’ ed, football rivalries, and high school debate. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "Exclusive first look at Brat's Gen Z series Chicken Girls, Zoe Valentine, and Total Eclipse," 30 Aug. 2019 Joe says: This is one of college football’s best rivalries and appointment viewing for the first Thursday night of the season. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, "Bo Nix is a liability; So are Alabama linebackers," 29 Aug. 2019 The once-annual rivalry was discontinued after the 1987 meeting. David Furones, sun-sentinel.com, "Rivalry renewed: Reliving the Miami Hurricanes’ five wins over the Florida Gators since 2000," 18 Aug. 2019 There were arguments and yelling; there were factions and holdouts and rivalries; and meetings often ended without resolution. Larissa Macfarquhar, The New Yorker, "The Radical Transformations of a Battered Women’s Shelter," 13 Aug. 2019 Developer Arkane nailed the intimate, good-natured rivalry and love between siblings. Matthew Gault, Time, "Wolfenstein: Youngblood Review: Grab a Pal and Fight Some Nazis," 12 Aug. 2019 Pence has recently thwarted claims that there is a growing rivalry between him and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley as reported by Politico. Editors, USA TODAY, "Tropical Storm Dorian, CMA Awards nominees: 5 things to know Wednesday," 28 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rivalry.' 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 rivalry

1598, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for rivalry

Last Updated

18 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rivalry

The first known use of rivalry was in 1598

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More Definitions for rivalry



English Language Learners Definition of rivalry

: a state or situation in which people or groups are competing with each other


ri·​val·​ry | \ ˈrī-vəl-rē How to pronounce rivalry (audio) \
plural rivalries

Kids Definition of rivalry

: the state of trying to defeat or be more successful than another : competition


ri·​val·​ry | \ ˈrī-vəl-rē How to pronounce rivalry (audio) \
plural rivalries

Medical Definition of rivalry

1 : a competitive or antagonistic state or condition

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More from Merriam-Webster on rivalry

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rivalry

Spanish Central: Translation of rivalry

Nglish: Translation of rivalry for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rivalry for Arabic Speakers

Comments on rivalry

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to spread over or through

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