rivalry

noun

ri·​val·​ry ˈrī-vəl-rē How to pronounce rivalry (audio)
plural rivalries
: the act of rivaling : the state of being a rival : competition

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

There is a bitter rivalry between the two groups. a strong sense of rivalry
Recent Examples on the Web Williams and the Trojans had plenty to celebrate after a skid-snapping rivalry victory over the Fighting Irish kept them in play for even bigger honors — and made Williams the probable frontrunner to collect the real trophy next month. Greg Beacham, ajc, 27 Nov. 2022 Ohio State was preparing for a regular-season rivalry road game at Michigan when a TV camera smacked J.T. Barrett in the knee. Nate Atkins, The Indianapolis Star, 26 Nov. 2022 Wolverines take on the No. 2 Buckeyes in the storied rivalry clash. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 26 Nov. 2022 Of all of their sons’ athletic exploits, few had left these parents prouder than walking out of either stadium after The Game as winners in Ohio State vs. Michigan, college football’s greatest rivalry. Tim Bielik, cleveland, 26 Nov. 2022 Kentucky football’s winning ways in the Governor's Cup rivalry continued Saturday. Ryan Black, The Courier-Journal, 26 Nov. 2022 Sampson advises his coaching counterpart all these years later, Gregg Berhalter, to acknowledge both this historical rivalry and the protest movement going on in Iran. Sean Gregory, Time, 25 Nov. 2022 The is the 11th most played rivalry among FBS programs, with 125 total games. oregonlive, 25 Nov. 2022 But a big season is not complete at either school without a memorable edition of these teams’ famed rivalry. Greg Beacham, Chicago Tribune, 25 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rivalry was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near rivalry

Cite this Entry

“Rivalry.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rivalry. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

rivalry

noun

ri·​val·​ry ˈrī-vəl-rē How to pronounce rivalry (audio)
plural rivalries
: the act of rivaling : the state of being a rival : competition

Medical Definition

rivalry

noun

ri·​val·​ry ˈrī-vəl-rē How to pronounce rivalry (audio)
plural rivalries
1
: a competitive or antagonistic state or condition
2

More from Merriam-Webster on rivalry

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ