AskDefine | Define competition

Dictionary Definition



1 a business relation in which two parties compete to gain customers; "business competition can be fiendish at times"
2 an occasion on which a winner is selected from among two or more contestants [syn: contest]
3 the act of competing as for profit or a prize; "the teams were in fierce contention for first place" [syn: contention, rivalry] [ant: cooperation]
4 the contestant you hope to defeat; "he had respect for his rivals"; "he wanted to know what the competition was doing" [syn: rival, challenger, competitor, contender]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (UK) /ˌkɒmpəˈtɪʃən/, /%kQmp@"tIS@n/
  • (US) /ˌkɑːmpəˈtɪʃən/, /%kA:mp@"tIS@n/


From competitio.


  1. The action of competing.
    The competition for this job is strong.
  2. A contest for a prize or award.
    The newspaper is featuring a competition to win a car.

Derived terms


action of competing
contest for a prize or award

Extensive Definition

Competition is the rivalry of two or more parties over something. Competition occurs naturally between living organisms which coexist in the same environment. For example, animals compete over water supplies, food, and mates. In addition, humans compete for attention, wealth, prestige, and fame.
Competition can be remote, as in a free throw contest, or antagonistic, as in a standard basketball game. These contests are similar, but in the first one players are isolated from each other, while in the second one they are able to interfere with the performance of their competitors.
Competition gives incentives for self improvement. If two watchmakers are competing for business, they will lower their prices and improve their products to increase their sales. If birds compete for a limited water supply during a drought, the more suited birds will survive to reproduce and improve the population.
Rivals will often refer to their competitors as "the competition". The term can also be used as to refer to the contest or tournament itself.


The Latin root for the verb "to compete" is "competere", which means "to seek together" or "to strive together". However, even the general definition stated above is not universally accepted. Social theorists, most notably Alfie Kohn (No Contest: The Case Against Competition [1986]), and cooperativists in general argue that the traditional definition of competition is too broad and too vague. Competition which originates internally and is biologically motivated can and should be defined as either amoral competition or simply survival instinct, behavior which is neither good nor bad but exists to further the survival of an individual or species (e.g., hunting), or behavior which is coerced (e.g., self-defense). Social Darwinists, however, state that competition is not only moral, but necessary to the survival of the species.

Sizes and levels

Competition may also exist at different sizes; some competitions may be between two members of a species, while other competitions can involve entire species. In an example in economics, a competition between two small stores would be considered small compared to competition between several mega-giants. As a result, the consequences of the competition would also vary- the larger the competition, the larger the effect.
In addition, the level of competition can also vary. At some levels, competition can be informal and be more for pride or fun. However, other competitions can be extreme and bitter; for example, some human wars have erupted because of the intense competition between two nations or nationalities.'''

Cooperative competition vs destructive competition

Destructive competition

Destructive competition seeks to benefit an individual/group/organism by damaging/eliminating competing individuals/groups/organisms; it opposes the desire for mutual survival - it is “winner takes all”. The rationale being that the challenge is a zero-sum game; the success of one group is dependent on the failure of the other competing groups. Destructive competition tends to promote fear, a first-strike mentality and embraces certain forms of trespass.

Cooperative competition

see coopetition Cooperative competition is based upon promoting mutual survival - “everyone wins”. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is a process where individuals compete to improve their level of happiness but compete in a cooperative manner through peaceful exchange and without violating other people. Cooperative competition focuses individuals/groups/organisms against the environment. Secondly, competition law can ban the existence or abusive behaviour of a firm dominating the market. One case in point could be a software company who through its monopoly on computer platforms makes consumers use its media player. Thirdly, to preserve competitive markets, the law supervises the mergers and acquisitions of very large corporations. Competition authorities could for instance require that a large packaging company give plastic bottle licenses to competitors before taking over a major PET producer. In this case, as in all three, competition law aims to protect the welfare of consumers by ensuring business must compete for its share of the market economy.
In recent decades, competition law has also been sold as good medicine to provide better public services, traditionally funded by tax payers and administered by democratically accountable governments. Hence competition law is closely connected with law on deregulation of access to markets, providing state aids and subsidies, the privatisation of state owned assets and the use of independent sector regulators, such as the United Kingdom telecommunications watchdog Ofcom. Behind the practice lies the theory, which over the last fifty years has been dominated by neo-classical economics. Markets are seen as the most efficient method of allocating resources, though sometimes they fail and regulation becomes necessary to protect the ideal market model. Behind the theory lies the history, reaching back further than the Roman Empire. The business practices of market traders, guilds and governments have always been subject to scrutiny, and sometimes severe sanctions. Since the twentieth century, competition law has become global. The two largest, most organised and influential systems of competition regulation are United States antitrust law and European Community competition law. The respective national authorities, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States and the European Commission's Competition Directorate General (DGCOMP) have formed international support and enforcement networks. Competition law is growing in importance every day, which warrants for its careful study.


Competition is also found in politics. In democracies, an election is a competition for an elected office. In other words, two or more candidates strive and compete against one another to attain a position of power. The winner gains the seat of the elected office for a set amount of time, when another election is usually held to determine the next holder of the office.
In addition, there is inevitable competition inside a government. Because several offices are appointed, potential candidates compete against the others in order to gain the particular office. Departments may also compete for a limited amount of resources, such as for funding. Finally, where there are party systems, elected leaders of different parties will ultimately compete against the other party for laws, funding, and power.
Finally, competition is also immanent between governments. Each country or nationality struggles for world dominance, power, or military strength. For example, the United States competed against the Soviet Union in the Cold War for world power, and the two also struggled over the different types of government (in this case, representative democracy and communism). The result of this type of competition often leads to worldwide tensions and may sometimes erupt into warfare.


While some sports, such as fishing, or hiking have been viewed as primarily recreational, most sports are considered competitive. The majority involve competition between two or more persons, (or animals and/or mechanical devices typically controlled by humans as in horse racing or auto racing). For example, in a game of basketball, two teams compete against one another to determine who can score the most points. While there is no set reward for the winning team, many players gain an internal sense of pride. In addition, extrinsic rewards may also be given. Athletes, besides competing against other humans, also compete against nature in sports such as whitewater kayaking or mountain climbing, where the goal is to reach a destination, with only natural barriers impeding the process. A regularly scheduled (such as annual) competition meant to determine the "best" competitor of that cycle is called a championship.
While professional sports have been usually viewed as intense and extremely competitive, recreational sports, which are often less intense, are considered a healthy option for the competitive urges in humans. Sport provides a relatively safe venue for converting unbridled competition into harmless competition, because sports competition is restrained. Competitive sports are governed by codified rules agreed upon by the participants. Violating these rules is considered to be unfair competition. Thus sports provide artificial not natural competition; for example, competing for control of a ball or defending territory on a playing field is not an innate biological factor in humans. Athletes in sports like gymnastics and competitive diving compete against each other to come closest to a conceptual ideal of a perfect performance, which incorporates measurable criteria and standards which are translated into numerical ratings and scores.
Sports competition is generally broken down into three categories: individual sports, such as archery, dual sports, such as doubles tennis, or team sports competition, such as football. While most sports competitions are recreation, there exists several major and minor professional sports leagues throughout the world. The Olympic Games, held every four years, is regarded as the international pinnacle of sports competition.


Competition is a factor in education. On a global scale, national education systems, intending to bring out the best in the next generation, encourage competitiveness among students by scholarships. Countries like Singapore and England have a special education program which caters to special students, prompting charges of academic elitism. Upon receipt of their academic results, students tend to compare their grades to see who is better. For severe cases, the pressure to perform in some countries is so high that it results in stigmatization of intellectually deficient students or even suicide as consequence of failing the exams, Japan being a prime example (see Education in Japan). This has resulted in critical reevaluateion of examinations as a whole by educationists . Critics of competition as opposed to excellence as a motivating factor in education systems, such as Alfie Kohn, assert that competition actually has a net negative influence on the achievement levels of students and that it "turns all of us into losers." (Kohn 1986)
Competitions also make up a large proponent of extracurricular activities in which students participate. Such competitions include TVO's broadcast Reach for the Top competition, FIRST Robotics, Duke Annual Robo-Climb Competition (DARC) and the University of Toronto Space Design Contest. In Texas the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has 22 High School level contests and 18 elementary and Junior High in subjects ranging from accounting to science to ready writing.

Biology and ecology

Competition within and between species is an important topic in biology, specifically in the field of ecology. Competition between members of a species ("intraspecific") is the driving force behind evolution and natural selection; the competition for resources such as food, water, territory, and sunlight results in the ultimate survival and dominance of the variation of the species best suited for survival. Competition is also present between species ("interspecific"). A limited amount of resources are available and several species may depend on these resources. Thus, each of the species competes with the others to gain the resources. As a result, several species less suited to compete for the resources may either adapt or die out. According to evolutionary theory, this competition within and between species for resources plays a critical role in natural selection. For example, a smaller tree will receive less sunlight from an adjacent tree which is larger than it in a rain forest. The larger tree is competing with the smaller one.

The study of competition

Competition has been studied in several fields, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Social psychologists, for instance, study the nature of competition. They investigate the natural urge of competition and its circumstances. They also study group dynamics to detect how competition emerges and what its effects are. Sociologists, meanwhile, study the effects of competition on society as a whole. In addition, anthropologists study the history and prehistory of competition in various cultures. They also investigate how competition manifested itself in various cultural settings in the past, and how competition has developed over time.


Many philosophers and psychologists have identified a trait in most living organisms which drive the particular organism to compete. This trait, called competitiveness, is viewed as an innate biological trait which coexists along with the urge for survival. Competitiveness, or the inclination to compete, though, has become synonymous with aggressivity and ambition in the English language. More advanced civilizations integrate aggressivity and competitiveness into their interactions as a way to distribute resources and adapt. Most plants compete for higher spots on trees to receive more sunlight.
The term also applies to econometrics. Here it is a comparative measure of the ability and performance of a firm or sub-sector to sell and produce/supply goods and/or services in a given market. The two academic bodies of thought on the assessment of competitiveness are the Structure Conduct Performance Paradigm and the more contemporary New Empirical Industrial Organisation model. Predicting changes in the competitiveness of business sectors is becoming an integral and explicit step in public policy making. Within capitalist economic systems, the drive of enterprises is to maintain and improve their own competitiveness.


The tendency toward extreme, unhealthy competition has been termed hypercompetitive. This concept originated in Karen Horney's theories on neurosis, specifically the highly aggressive personality type which is characterized as "moving against people." In her view, some people have a need to compete and win at any cost as a means of maintaining their self-worth. These individuals are likely to turn any activity into a competition, and they will feel threatened if they find themselves losing. Researchers have found that men and women who score high on the trait of hypercompetitiveness are more narcissistic and less psychologically healthy than those who score low on the trait (Ryckman et al. 1994). Hypercompetitive individuals generally believe that "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."



competition in Catalan: Competència
competition in Czech: Kompetice
competition in Danish: Konkurrence
competition in German: Wettbewerb (Wirtschaft)
competition in Estonian: Konkurents
competition in Modern Greek (1453-): Ανταγωνισμός
competition in Spanish: Competición
competition in Esperanto: Konkurso
competition in French: Compétition
competition in Galician: Competición
competition in Korean: 경쟁
competition in Indonesian: Kompetisi
competition in Italian: Concorrenza (diritto commerciale)
competition in Hebrew: תחרות
competition in Lithuanian: Konkurencija
competition in Dutch: Mededinging
competition in Japanese: 競技
competition in Polish: Konkurencja (ekonomia)
competition in Portuguese: Competição
competition in Romanian: Concurenţă
competition in Russian: Соревнование
competition in Simple English: Competition
competition in Slovenian: Tekmovanje
competition in Finnish: Kilpailu
competition in Swedish: Konkurrens
competition in Thai: การแข่งขัน
competition in Turkish: Rekabet
competition in Ukrainian: Конкуренція
competition in Yiddish: קאנקורענט
competition in Chinese: 竞争

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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