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 Though former UConn coach Bob Diaco’s failed to codify the annual matchup into a true rivalry game (the official Civil ConFLiCT Trophy seems to have been lost forever), the teams have developed a shared history over nearly a decade. Alex Putterman, courant.com, "Athletic director David Benedict still confident in UConn football; 2020 schedule almost finished," 19 Oct. 2019 Last Saturday, a half-hour before Texas and Oklahoma kicked off their rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Defee laid down his version of the law. Mike Finger, ExpressNews.com, "With football officials under fire, who wants this job?," 15 Oct. 2019 Both teams will take 3-4 overall records into the rivalry game, which dates back to 1979. Anchorage Daily News, "It’s the last weekend before football playoffs, and seedings are at stake," 4 Oct. 2019 The event took place on the one-year anniversary of a brawl at Hoover High School that divided parts of the community and led to a student walkout and the cancellation of the city’s crosstown rivalry football game. Andrew J. Campa, Glendale News-Press, "State of Schools breakfast offers Glendale Unified, community opportunity to rally around schools," 3 Oct. 2019 Or perhaps Khloé's color change was inspired by some sibling rivalry; On Monday, Kendall Jenner shocked everyone at London Fashion Week by trading her signature brunette hair for a blonde hue that had many comparing Jenner to her big sis. Neha Prakash, Allure, "Khloé Kardashian's Hair Is Now Daenerys-Level Platinum Blonde," 19 Sep. 2019 The Rumble of the Raritan is a seven-game showcase that brings some of the nation’s top high school to New Jersey as well as local rivalry games. Stephen Means, cleveland.com, "Ohio State football commits Lejond Cavazos, Kyle McCord face off on ESPN2 tonight: Buckeyes recruiting news," 13 Sep. 2019 Alba is about a family, on an expedition to scatter the ashes of an archaeologist, who battle survivor guilt and sibling rivalries. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, "Toronto: Sally Potter Prepping Brexit-Inspired Comedy 'Alba'," 6 Sep. 2019 In Indiana, Silver Creek prevailed in a rivalry game. Gentry Estes, The Courier-Journal, "It was an ugly scene, but don't vilify all Colts fans for booing Andrew Luck's retirement," 26 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

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for rivalry

The first known use of rivalry was in 1598

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More Definitions for rivalry


How to pronounce rivalry (audio)

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

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