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

Their rivalry goes back years, including a benches-clearing incident back on April 7 in Pittsburgh. Jill Martin, CNN, "Yasiel Puig was in a benches-clearing brawl minutes after he reportedly was traded," 31 July 2019 Instead the team rolled off eight straight wins, including the third straight in its long-standing rivalry with Navy. Matt Murschel, orlandosentinel.com, "2019 College Football Rankings: No. 26 Army pushes to build on recent success," 30 July 2019 The 1988 season was one in which the Los Angeles Dodgers thoroughly enjoyed the upper hand in their ongoing rivalry with the Cincinnati Reds. Mark Schmetzer, Cincinnati.com, "Top games in Cincinnati Reds history: No. 28 – Tom Browning's perfect game vs. the Dodgers," 17 July 2019 The two Merseyside clubs will be eager to renew their rivalry next year and shenanigans such as this will only add to the heat of the first derby of the season, which takes place on 4 December. SI.com, "Jamie Carragher Takes to Instagram to Mock Rivals Everton's Trophy Prospects," 16 July 2019 The show followed their rivalries and relationships — which ended in death. Natalie Stone, PEOPLE.com, "Will Big Little Lies Return for Season 3? It's 'Not Realistic,' HBO Executive Says," 15 July 2019 Georgia has done some good work on this, putting future home-and-home series with Oklahoma, UCLA, Florida State, Clemson and Texas in addition to its annual Georgia Tech rivalry. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: SEC needs to evolve football scheduling amid athletic department budget cuts," 15 July 2019 However, the two leaders fell out and their rivalry became public last October when Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa as prime minister. Washington Post, "Sri Lankan government defeats no-confidence motion," 11 July 2019 MLB’s first London series started with a bang as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox brought their famed rivalry to the United Kingdom. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, "Photos: Home run fireworks for Yankees-Red Sox at London Series," 29 June 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

7 Aug 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

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


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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