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Rival vs. Enemy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 7, 2024
A rival is someone competing in the same field or for the same objective, often in a non-hostile manner, while an enemy is an individual, group, or nation with whom one is in conflict or opposition, often associated with hostility and harm.

Key Differences

A rival relationship is characterized by competition in a specific area, like sports or business, and is generally non-hostile. An enemy relationship is defined by deeper conflict and hostility, often arising from fundamental disagreements or threats.
Rivals typically aim to outperform or surpass each other within certain boundaries of competition or rivalry. Enemies, however, intend harm, defeat, or domination over the other, often resulting in conflict or warfare.
Rivalry is common in sports, politics, business, and academics, where competition is a natural element. Enmity is found in contexts of war, deep-seated ideological conflicts, and situations where interests are fundamentally opposed.
Rivalries can be temporary, based on specific events or competitions, and often involve respect or admiration. Enmity tends to be more enduring and intense, involving deep resentment, aggression, or hatred.
Rivalries often allow for reconciliation and mutual respect after competition. Enmity, due to its deeper roots, may require significant efforts for resolution and may persist over longer periods.

Comparison Chart


Competitive, often non-hostile.
Hostile, often involving conflict.


To outperform or surpass.
To harm, defeat, or dominate.


Sports, business, politics.
War, ideological conflicts.


Can be temporary, less intense.
Often enduring, more intense.


Possible and often happens.
More challenging and less frequent.

Rival and Enemy Definitions


A rival challenges or contests someone in a specific area.
The team faced their longtime rival in the championship game.


An enemy can be an aggressor in a hostile situation.
They were on high alert for any movement from the enemy.


A rival is an opponent in a contest or competition.
The boxer trained hard to defeat his rival.


An enemy is a person or group in opposition or conflict.
During the war, they had to identify who the enemy was.


A rival is a competitor in the same field or activity.
She regarded her colleague as a friendly rival in the sales competition.


An enemy is someone who actively opposes or is hostile to someone.
In the conflict, the opposing force was considered the enemy.


A rival is an adversary in a non-hostile competition.
In the debate, he proved to be a formidable rival.


An enemy is an antagonist in a conflict or struggle.
In the story, the protagonist had to overcome his enemy.


A rival is someone who contends for the same goal or prize.
As rivals, the two companies vied for the market's top spot.


An enemy is a foe, especially in war or conflict.
The soldiers were trained to face the enemy bravely.


One who attempts to equal or surpass another, or who pursues the same object as another; a competitor.


One who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes another; a foe.


One who opposes or is hostile to an idea or cause
An enemy of democracy.


What defines a rival?

A rival is defined as a competitor in the same field or objective.

What is an enemy?

An enemy is someone who is in opposition or conflict, often hostile.

Can enemies become friends?

It's possible, but transforming enmity into friendship often requires significant effort and change.

Is rivalry healthy?

Rivalry can be healthy if it encourages improvement and respect.

Is enmity always personal?

Enmity can be personal, but it can also arise from broader conflicts like war or ideological differences.

Is enmity common in international relations?

Enmity can be a factor in international relations, particularly in conflicts between nations.

Can rivals be friendly?

Yes, rivals can maintain a friendly relationship despite competition.

Are enemies always hostile?

Generally, enemies are associated with hostility and conflict.

Do rivalries last long?

Rivalries can be short-term, based around specific events or competitions.

Can enmity lead to violence?

Yes, enmity can lead to violence, especially in extreme cases.

Do rivals respect each other?

Rivals often respect each other, especially in professional or sports contexts.

Can rivals collaborate?

Yes, rivals can collaborate, especially when it's mutually beneficial.

Can companies be rivals?

Yes, companies often engage in rivalry in the business world.

Are enemies found in politics?

Yes, enemies can exist in politics, often arising from deep ideological differences.

How do sports teams view rivals?

Sports teams view rivals as competitors to be outperformed.

Can enemies negotiate?

Enemies can negotiate, especially in contexts like diplomacy or conflict resolution.

Do rivals seek to harm each other?

In healthy rivalries, the aim is not to harm but to outdo each other within fair competition.

What causes enmity?

Enmity can be caused by conflict, competition, ideological differences, or historical grievances.

Can enmity be resolved peacefully?

Peaceful resolution of enmity is possible but requires mutual understanding and effort.

Is rivalry common in academics?

Yes, rivalry is common in academic settings, like between researchers or institutions.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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