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

Lanham said at the time that the 18th Street Gang is MS-13's top rival. Fox News, "6 MS-13 gang members, illegal immigrants involved in deadly Maryland stabbing, ICE says," 9 Sep. 2019 Though initially jealous, Matt soon realizes that this unambitious ne’er-do-well who can’t even find a girlfriend is no rival. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Friend': Film Review | TIFF 2019," 7 Sep. 2019 The commission is dominated by the current ruling party, the right-wing Law and Justice, who are rivals of Tusk’s own party, Civic Platform, and are wary of Tusk’s continuing influence on Polish politics ahead of general and presidential elections. Washington Post, "Group of Polish lawmakers wants Donald Tusk in court," 6 Sep. 2019 Google and Apple are rivals in the smartphone market, where their iOS and Android operating systems vie for users. NBC News, "Apple says Uighurs targeted in iPhone attack but disputes Google's findings," 6 Sep. 2019 Bratty reigning champ Cindy (Emily Skinner) is her biggest rival for the title of Miss Next, previously held by pop star Jasmine Joel (Chloe Lukasiak), who serves as a mentor to the younger girls. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Lauren Orlando and Emily Skinner star, but ‘Next Level’ has two left feet," 5 Sep. 2019 Microsoft’s Teams is now Slack’s biggest rival, claiming 13 million daily active users in the first quarter of 2019, compared to Slack’s 10 million—but how Microsoft measures daily users is unclear. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, "Slack’s first public earnings are a speed bump on its way to owning enterprise," 5 Sep. 2019 But luckily for travelers, there is a relatively new rival in the mix. Kaitlin Menza, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why It's Nearly Impossible to Find a Flight Deal Between New York and Paris," 2 Sep. 2019 The Hurricanes, however, are more natural rivals with a shared history with the Gators. Edgar Thompson, orlandosentinel.com, "Gators, Miami series officially set for 2024, 2025," 20 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

At $5 a month, or free for a year, Apple isn't trying to tempt Netflix or Hulu viewers to drop those rival services. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "The Apple iPhone Event’s Biggest Story Wasn’t the New Products," 11 Sep. 2019 With so much riding on an election that most expect toward the end of the year, the rival parties are trying to ensure that the timing best suits them. Stephen Castle, New York Times, "For Boris Johnson, Another Bad Day and Another Big Defeat in Parliament," 9 Sep. 2019 Dew Tour will continue to host its signature team challenge competition, which pits skiers and snowboarders from rival brands — such as Volkl skis versus Armada skis — against one another. Antonio Olivero, The Know, "Dew Tour finds new Colorado ski area to host its games for the next two winters," 9 Sep. 2019 On the crucial day, Mills was at lunch with Max Foster, a rival reporter from CNN, when, around 1:40 p.m., her cell phone rang. K.j. Yossman, Marie Claire, "Inside the Cutthroat World of Royal Gossips," 5 Sep. 2019 Does that mean the rival studio will go away in a potential next season? Martha Sorren, Woman's Day, "Abby Lee Miller Left the 'Dance Moms' Reunion, and No One Was Surprised," 4 Sep. 2019 One of the final memories of that season was a 75-0 defeat at the hands of crosstown rival Estancia in the Battle for the Bell. Andrew Turner, Daily Pilot, "High School Football Preview: Jimmy Nolan looks to bring back belief at Costa Mesa," 29 Aug. 2019 More than 90 percent foundered in storms; only about 2 percent were sunk by pirates or rival navies. Amy Crawford, Smithsonian, "Why Spain Is Seeking to Catalog All of Its Historic Shipwrecks," 23 Aug. 2019 The movie followed Harding’s story from her early skating days to her training for the ’94 Winter Olympics before her ex-husband intervened and tried to sabotage rival skater Kerrigan. Mike Miller, PEOPLE.com, "The Most Amazing On-Screen Transformations — from Charlize Theron to Tom Hanks," 21 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Harris’ operation is rivaled only by that of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Joe Garofoli, SFChronicle.com, "Elizabeth Warren announces head of California campaign," 23 Aug. 2019 But those ingredients may soon be rivaled by another huge trend predicted for 2019: CBD. Maura Judkis, Twin Cities, "A dozen stress-relief snacks, tinctures and teas later, and she’s still anxious," 3 Aug. 2019 Although many grumble about long waiting times, and some do also carry private medical insurance, the popularity of the NHS is only rivaled by the armed forces and fire brigade. NBC News, "This is what the U.S. wants from the U.K. before it will sign a trade deal," 3 June 2019 But the incipient entertainment giant probably still won't have the scale to catch up to its usual Hollywood rivals, or the direct connections to a big audience to rival its new, tech industry competitors. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "The Viacom CBS Merger Could Dim Netflix’s Rising Star," 13 Aug. 2019 That average daily figure would rival the present peak number of vehicles trying to get through the tunnel on big holiday weekends, when traffic backups stretch for miles in both directions. John Sharp | Jsharp@al.com, al, "From coffee services to trucking, businesses grappling with prospects of tolls," 8 Aug. 2019 Housing, hamstrung by excessive environmental regulation and mountains of red tape that rival the Sierra Nevada, is in such short supply that the median rent in San Francisco is $3,800 a month. James P. Sutton, National Review, "Why the GOP Has Declined in California," 1 Aug. 2019 Only Colorado might rival that mix of skating and smarts on the back end, but the Cale Makar-Samuel Girard-Bowen Byram trio is a few years away from its full potential. Matt Porter, BostonGlobe.com, "NHL seeing little movement on restricted free agents," 27 July 2019 Few transformations have rivaled that of 6-foot-1 star cornerback C.J. Henderson, who was 176 pounds as a freshman and enters camp weighing 202 pounds. Edgar Thompson, orlandosentinel.com, "Gators kick off preseason camp looking to take next step under coach Dan Mullen," 26 July 2019

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

14 Sep 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

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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