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

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 killing sprung from a gang rivalry between the Failing Street gang and Kerby Blocc Crips, police testified in 2019. oregonlive, 18 Jan. 2022 The Bears fired general manager Ryan Pace (and head coach Matt Nagy) on Monday, and hoo boy, what better way to stir up the ever-smoldering rivalry between the Packers and Bears than hiring the son of a Green Bay legend? Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12 Jan. 2022 Behind the scenes, and on the recruiting trail, the competitive rivalry between Alabama and Georgia started almost immediately when Georgia hired longtime Alabama assistant Kirby Smart away from Nick Saban. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 11 Jan. 2022 Putting aside the intense basketball rivalry between the two schools, Califf generously advised me how to address study design questions such as sample selection, outcome measures, and statistical methods for data analysis. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, STAT, 9 Jan. 2022 Snowboarding went mainstream soon thereafter amid a fierce rivalry between Jake Burton Carpenter and Tom Sims. Max Ufberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 Jan. 2022 Refusing a straightforward feminist argument, Campion inflates a generational rivalry between the Burbank brothers, ranchers in 1925 Montana. Armond White, National Review, 31 Dec. 2021 The sporting romance/rivalry between the two offers something different from the more conventional likes of Ava, Kate and Gunpowder Milkshake. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 29 Dec. 2021 The nascent golf rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is becoming par for the course. David Schenker, WSJ, 26 Dec. 2021

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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Time Traveler for rivalry

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The first known use of rivalry was in 1598

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Last Updated

21 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Rivalry.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rivalry. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on rivalry

Nglish: Translation of rivalry for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rivalry for Arabic Speakers


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