re·​la·​tion | \ ri-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce relation (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for relation


commerce, dealings, interaction, intercourse



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of relation in a Sentence

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

Recent Examples on the Web

This also brings the domestic terrorism total closer to the 100 arrests made in relation to international terrorism. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "How Are You Keeping Your Hispanic Employees Safe?: raceAhead," 5 Aug. 2019 Darroch’s comments were in relation to the prosecution of two British ISIS members — nicknamed the Beatles — accused of gruesome murders in Syria. NBC News, "Trump warns U.S. allies to take back captured ISIS fighters," 3 Aug. 2019 Fotis Dulos, 51, and his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, 44, are out on $500,000 bail after being charged with evidence tampering and hindering prosecution in relation to the missing-person investigation. Fox News, "Lawyers for missing Connecticut mom's husband calls report of her blood-stained shirt 'speculation'," 1 Aug. 2019 But nothing quite prepared me for that day one year ago when Russian authorities summoned me in relation to the murder of my former husband, the journalist Orkhan Dzhemal. Irina Gordienko, Time, "My Son's Father Was Killed While Reporting on a Private Russian Militia. I'm Still Waiting for Justice," 30 July 2019 The Federal Reserve took the unusual step of qualifying the remarks of a senior official to reassure markets that they had not been made in relation to the central bank’s forthcoming decision on interest rates. The Economist, "Business this week," 25 July 2019 One underlying topic this week at the convention was the nature of transfers in Texas high school athletics in relation to the NCAA becoming less restrictive with its transfer rules. Adam Coleman, Houston Chronicle, "Debate continues over UIL transfer rules," 23 July 2019 The word has repeatedly appeared in relation to newsmakers using the word. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Debating ‘racist’ in news stories," 19 July 2019 On March 26, 2019, Dawsey pleaded guilty to assaulting federal officers and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Carol Robinson |,, "Teen gets 12 years in federal prison for shooting at southeast Alabama lawmen," 2 July 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about relation

Statistics for relation

Last Updated

9 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for relation

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for relation



English Language Learners Definition of relation

: 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 How to pronounce relation (audio) \

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 How to pronounce relation (audio) \

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 How to pronounce relational (audio) \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

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 haphazard or makeshift solution

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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