Rivaled/rivaling vs. rivalled/rivalling

In American English, the verb rival is usually inflected rivaled and rivaling, with one l. Outside the U.S., the more traditional double-l forms, rivalled and rivalling, are standard.

Rival is one of a class of l-ending verbs whose inflected forms have lost the second l in American English. This has happened in two waves. The first group of verbs, which includes travel, fuel, and label, permanently lost the second l in the early decades of the 20th century. The second group, which includes marshal, lost the second l more slowly, moving through many indecisive trends before the newer forms finally gained predominance in the 1980s and ’90s. With this second wave, the single-l forms now prevail by a significant margin but are not fully entrenched; some still face resistance from some Americans.

Rival is part of the second wave. Rivaled and rivalled were more or less even in American texts through much of the 20th century, but, as a Google ngram suggests, the single-l form pulled away around 1980 and has only gained since then. As of 2013, rivalled and rivalling are almost nonexistent in U.S. news stories from the past year (news stories are easier to search than other types of texts, and news publications tend to be years ahead of books as indicators of usage); in the past month, for instance, a selection of about 30 of the biggest U.S. news websites had 22 instances of rivaled against a single rivalled.



The wild ride rivaled other rapids in West Virginia, Maine and Washington state. [Newsday]

It was, prosecutors said, one of the largest heists in New York City history, rivaling the 1978 Lufthansa robbery. [New York Times]

“Merlin” has been massively popular in the U.K., where it rivaled “Doctor Who” in ratings. [Los Angeles Times]

Everywhere else

Yesterday’s dramatic finish rivalled the late drama between Brentford and Doncaster at Griffin Park on the final day of the League One season. [Evening Standard]

Before the crash, Manulife traded for more than $40 a share and had a market capitalization rivalling the major banks. [Globe and Mail]

However, incomes on the West Coast had grown to the point where they now rivalled those in Auckland and Wellington. [New Zealand Herald]

7 thoughts on “Rivaled/rivaling vs. rivalled/rivalling”

  1. I appreciated about your post.the various uses of rival word that you showed is awesome.the noun and the adverb form of rival words is also important to communicate in english.Keep posting in future about another word.Thank you.

  2. “With this second wave, the single-l forms now prevail by a significant margin but are not fully entrenched; some still face resistance from some Americans.”

    Hmmm, it may not be *resistance* as much as each generation believing that what it’s taught is correct. I learned to read & write before starting kindergarten in 1965. My parents were considerably older than usual, though, & most of my teachers quite old-fashioned. (The one-room schoolhouse my older sibling went to was closed the year I was to start–much to my chagrin!–& that teacher subsequently taught at my elementary school along with others who had been reassigned to single- or double-grade classrooms.) So, I learned some spellings, words & phrases which were anachronous even then. (For example, my father always said ‘forenoon’ rather than ‘morning’.)

    These days I proofread & edit short stories & novellas for fun. Many are written by people _decades_ younger than me, & we occasionally get into real rows about a spelling, punctuation scheme, or word’s connotation or even denotation. Since most of my friends are quite clever at the mechanics of English, these disagreements often turn out to be generational differences in what we were taught, or due to regional or national differences. I think that we’re seeing shifts in the pronounciation, connotation &/or denotation of English words far more frequently & more quickly than ever before. It’s certainly a challenge to this OCD language pedant; on the other hand, I love words & the English language, & it’s so *amazing* to see it adapting in my lifetime!

    • Hi Wanted_A_Pony… as a fellow pedant, perhaps you wouldn’t mind me pointing out that you spelled it incorrectly as ‘pronOunciation’ instead of ‘pronunciation’ :-p

      • Hi holidayspirit! Hmmm, I don’t think I received a notification about your comment….

        I used “pedant” in the self-deprecating sense of “one who overemphasizes rules or minor details”. My spelling, punctuation & grammar are certainly less than perfect (hey, I never claimed to be a *good* pedant! ;-).

    • Forenoon.. that’s interesting! Not to go off-topic here, but in German they have forenoon, noon and afternoon in addition to morning, evening and night (really meaning past midnight there), e.g. Vormittag, Mittag, Nachmittag (in addition to Morgen and Abend and Nacht). In Dutch it’s the same: voormiddag, middag, namiddag (in addition to ochtend/morgen and avond and nacht).

      Are you sure forenoon refers to precisely the same timespan in a day that morning refers to?

      • Hi johnny5wd! I can’t check on the exact meaning of “forenoon” as used by my father because he died decades ago, & he was the only person I remember using the word. I am certain that he used “forenoon” as a synonym for “morning”–that is, the time between dawn/waking and noon. Technically, in American usage, “morning” means the period of time beginning at midnight and ending at noon; but most people think of “morning” as beginning when they wake & start the day, or dawn, whichever is earlier.

        I should add that my father was born in 1906, and was taught by his mother (who was the schoolteacher in their tiny rural town). She, in turn, formed her language habits in the 1880s & lived a fairly rural life. So some of my father’s turns of phrase which I heard in the 1960s were strongly influenced by American English usage or customs from the end of the previous century. I know that many Dutch immigrants (as well as lumberjacks, miners & farmers from all over the world) settled in our state (Michigan). It’s very possible that the English my father grew up with was enriched by Germanic words and phrases which have since fallen out of use.

        And, as far as I can tell, your post is perfect! Like most Americans, I only speak & write English. I am frequently astonished by how skilled many people in the rest of the world are in multiple languages. I wish the USA encouraged immigrants to retain their birth languages, as well as learning English, but we have discouraged every language except English since before the Revolution.

  3. The different usage of the word rival listed in this website is very helpful. It helps us to broaden our vocabulary.


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