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


The teams have been longtime rivals. The men are romantic rivals for her affection.


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

Jodie Comer, who plays Eve's rival, the assassin Villanelle, also wowed Jennings during the audition process. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Codename Villanelle Author Luke Jennings on Why Sandra Oh Is "Just Perfect" to Play Eve," 4 Apr. 2019 Marvel’s longtime rival, DC Comics, said in a statement. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "In Memoriam: All of the Celebrities, Politicians, and Notable People Who Died in 2018," 13 Dec. 2018 Two of Qualcomm’s biggest rivals, Intel and Samsung, are also developing 5G technology. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 855 mobile chip as it readies for 5G," 4 Dec. 2018 In Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe, Chabert plays Darcy, a woman who returns to her hometown for Christmas and is forced not only to reconnect with an old rival, Luke (played by Brendan Penny), but to plan a charity event with him. Emma Dibdin, Country Living, "Who Is Lacey Chabert? Meet the Star of the Hallmark Christmas Movie, ‘Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe'," 23 Nov. 2018 This total is also higher than UPS rival, FedEx Corp, who is hiring 55,000 seasonal workers. Alexis Jones, Woman's Day, "UPS Is Hiring Over 100,000 Seasonal Workers for the Holidays," 25 Sep. 2018 The opposition had feared the election would be rigged in favor of strongman President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, whose first term was marked by a crackdown on political rivals, courts and the media. Fox News, "Maldives' opposition presidential candidate claims victory," 23 Sep. 2018 But this sheer gel-cream rivals (and, to be honest, might even beat) its pricier counterparts, especially in terms of ease. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "The 5 Truly Excellent Beauty Products I'm Loving This Week," 12 Sep. 2018 After considering permit applications from 18 companies, the city government recommended that two rivals — Uber and Lyft — become the sole providers of scooter- and bike-sharing there. Johana Bhuiyan, Recode, "The bare-knuckle tactics Uber used to get its way with regulators are not going to work for scooter startups," 30 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Instagram will soon account for a sizable part of owner Facebook’s revenue growth, and also keeps Facebook connected to younger people online while helping fend off a potential threat from rival Snapchat. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Inside the $21 billion market to track your every move," 11 Dec. 2018 The big, huge, ticker tape news of the Fall 2019 menswear season is that for the for the first time in the history of runway fashion, the men’s shows finally rival the womenswear ones in terms of excitement, innovation, and artistry. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "The Fall 2019 Men’s Trend Report," 25 Jan. 2019 But should emotional comfort ever rival traditional therapy? Justine Harman, Glamour, "These Self-Help Gurus Might Not Have Have Formal Training—But They Promise to Change Your Life," 20 Dec. 2018 Museveni also was in Arua at the time, campaigning for a rival candidate who eventually lost. Rodney Muhumuza, The Seattle Times, "Ugandan pop star, government critic Bobi Wine free on bail," 27 Aug. 2018 Candice Bergen will reprise her role as a dogged investigative journalist and TV anchor, and her character's son (played by Jake McDorman) will star on a rival morning show. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Murphy Brown Is Coming Back to Television," 19 July 2018 Last year, the Irish shocked their rival 49-14 and vaulted into the College Football Playoff discussion. Matthew Glenesk, Indianapolis Star, "Ranking Indiana's top 50 college football games in 2018," 11 July 2018 And in the last week, mailers paid for by the Baltimore County Victory Slate have landed in voters’ mailboxes promoting Almond and criticizing a rival candidate, state Sen. Jim Brochin of Cockeysville. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "Super PAC spends $32K on Baltimore County executive candidate Vicki Almond," 18 June 2018 This is the first season for the Ikon Pass, a rival to Vail’s Epic Pass. Kimberly Chin And, WSJ, "Vail Resorts Says Ski Bookings Were Light in Early December," 11 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

My travails to snag it — risking it being seized by customs, overpaying sellers, weathering formula changes — surely rival those of the Arthurian knights who searched for their own Holy Grail in medieval lore. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "The “best” lipstick probably won’t change your life — but the search for it can," 12 Dec. 2018 At the end of the workshop, Bait al Nay provides tools and machines needed to cut, drill, and shape a traditional nay whose sound could rival those of the grandparents’ generation. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "In rediscovered reed flute, a soulful link to Jordanian identity," 13 July 2018 Starry uses a type of extremely high-frequency radio technology to deliver broadband Internet service at speeds rivaling those from landline broadband companies such as Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications. BostonGlobe.com, "Starry completes a $100 million funding round," 7 July 2018 Graham built Evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States, the Associated Press reports. Eileen Reslen, Good Housekeeping, "Kathie Lee Gifford Gets Emotional Remembering Evangelical Pastor Billy Graham," 21 Feb. 2018 Novels might be big milestones in a writer’s career, but the short fiction world is where there’s a ton of innovation, experimentation, and really excellent stories that often rival what their longer counterparts are doing. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "11 new sci-fi and fantasy books to check out in late November," 15 Nov. 2018 Her nods to her mentors are mixed in with rustic touches that rival even Joanna Gaines’ best work. Megan Stein, Country Living, "'The Voice' Star RaeLynn Has a Piece of Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton in Her Home," 4 Nov. 2018 The success of our first kiosks in La Jolla rivaled sales of some of the Bay Area locations. Hang Nguyen, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Urban Remedy, the health-conscious Bay Area eatery, expands into San Diego County," 29 May 2018 His production rivaled former Alabama greats Julio Jones and Amari Cooper (also a South Florida native), both of whom were first-round selections in the NFL Draft. Jordan Mcpherson, miamiherald, "From Derwin James to Lamar Jackson: Meet the first-round NFL Draft picks from Florida | Miami Herald," 26 Apr. 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near rival



rivage green





Statistics for rival

Last Updated

13 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rival

The first known use of rival was in 1577

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More Definitions for rival



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 move or proceed with twists and turns

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