re·​la·​tion | \ri-ˈlā-shən \

Definition of relation 

1 : the act of telling or recounting : account

2 : an aspect or quality (such as resemblance) that connects two or more things or parts as being or belonging or working together or as being of the same kind the relation of time and space specifically : a property (such as one expressed by is equal to, is less than, or is the brother of) that holds between an ordered pair of objects

3 : the referring by a legal fiction of an act to a prior date as the time of its taking effect usually used with back

4a(1) : a person connected by consanguinity or affinity : relative

(2) : a person legally entitled to a share of the property of an intestate

b : relationship by consanguinity or affinity : kinship

5 : reference, respect in relation to

6 : the attitude or stance which two or more persons or groups assume toward one another race relations

7a : the state of being mutually or reciprocally interested (as in social or commercial matters)

b relations plural

(1) : dealings, intercourse foreign relations

(2) : sexual intercourse

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Synonyms & Antonyms for relation


commerce, dealings, interaction, intercourse



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Examples of relation in a Sentence

The incident led to tense international relations. sexual relations outside of marriage

Recent Examples on the Web

Russia's relations with the U.S. are at a post-Cold War low, and many Russian policies are directly aimed at countering American influence. Fox News, "Russia seeks to counter US weight as Lavrov takes UN stage," 28 Sep. 2018 Here, Cho talks about making the unusual film, the draw of appearing in a mystery, and how Searching made him consider computers in relation to his own two kids. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "John Cho Takes Us Behind the Scenes of Searching, Summer’s Most Unusual and Gripping Thriller," 21 Aug. 2018 Irish-Jewish relations haven't always been this sour. Sean Savage, Jewish Journal, "Ireland goes ahead with legislation to boycott products made in Israeli settlements," 12 July 2018 But these days, relations are good and trade is brisk. Raymond Zhong,, "China’s taste for soybeans is a weak spot in trade war with Trump," 9 July 2018 At the same time, trade relations between the U.S. and other world leaders have also been growing heated. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "Trump Threatens China With 11 Times the Tariffs Officially Approved by the U.S.," 5 July 2018 American-Russian relations at this moment are somewhat schizophrenic. Jonah Shepp, Daily Intelligencer, "In Trump’s Russia Summit, Putin Holds All the Cards," 29 June 2018 In the far West, relations with Native Americans were complex and sometimes violent, but some riders spanned both worlds. National Geographic, "Why the Short-Lived Pony Express Still Fascinates Us," 23 June 2018 Bansal’s ouster comes months after his fellow Flipkart founder, Sachin Bansal (no relation), was forced out of the company during its sale talks with Walmart in April, following a bitter fallout with the then-board of Flipkart. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Waymo is launching the world’s first driverless car service next month," 14 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'relation.' 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 relation

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for relation

Middle English relacion, from Anglo-French, from Latin relation-, relatio, from referre (past participle relatus) to carry back

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Statistics for relation

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for relation

The first known use of relation was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of relation

relations : the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other

: the way in which two or more people or things are connected

: a person who is a member of your family


re·​la·​tion | \ri-ˈlā-shən \

Kids Definition of relation

1 : connection sense 2, relationship Doctors studied the relation between sleep and health.

2 : a related person : relative

3 : reference sense 2, respect He'll speak in relation to this matter.

4 relations plural : the interaction between two or more people, groups, or countries foreign relations


re·​la·​tion | \ri-ˈlā-shən \

Medical Definition of relation 

1 : an aspect or quality (as resemblance or causality) that connects two or more things or parts as being or belonging or working together, as being of the same kind, or as being logically connected the strong relation between genotype and phenotype— Anne M. Glazier et al

2 : the attitude or stance which two or more persons or groups assume toward one another race relations

3a : the state of being mutually or reciprocally interested (as in social matters)

b relations plural : sexual intercourse testified that relations had occurredNewsweek

Other Words from relation

relational \-​əl \ adjective

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Comments on relation

What made you want to look up relation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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