relative

1 of 2

noun

rel·​a·​tive ˈre-lə-tiv How to pronounce relative (audio)
1
: a word referring grammatically to an antecedent
2
: a thing having a relation to or connection with or necessary dependence on another thing
3
a
: a person connected with another by blood or affinity
b
: an animal or plant related to another by common descent
4
: a relative term

relative

2 of 2

adjective

1
: introducing a subordinate clause qualifying an expressed or implied antecedent
a relative pronoun
also : introduced by such a connective
a relative clause
2
: relevant, pertinent
matters relative to world peace
3
: not absolute or independent : comparative
the relative isolation of life in the country
4
: having the same key signature
used of major and minor keys and scales
5
: expressed as the ratio of the specified quantity (such as an error in measuring) to the total magnitude (such as the value of a measured quantity) or to the mean of all the quantities involved

Examples of relative in a Sentence

Noun At the family reunion, I saw relatives I haven't seen in years. He inherited a small piece of land from a distant relative. The donkey is a relative of the horse. Adjective the relative value of two houses the relative positions of the islands We discussed the relative merits of each school. “Who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” and “that” are all relative pronouns. The phrase “that won” in “the book that won” is a relative clause. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Testimonies are based on interviews with colleagues, friends or relatives, with additional information from their social media accounts. Joe Snell, Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2024 In January 2023, a 17-year-old Paschal High School student was shot to death on a sidewalk outside a fast food restaurant after his cousin publicly criticized a group of teenagers the homicide victim’s relative believed were involved in an overdose death. Emerson Clarridge, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 8 Feb. 2024 On the night of the game, Ponds and her relatives met another group and watched the first 90 minutes of the game in the Pizza Bar. Glenn E. Rice, Kansas City Star, 7 Feb. 2024 The author Isabel Allende, a relative of the late President and a champion of women’s rights, agreed. Graciela Mochkofsky, The New Yorker, 6 Feb. 2024 By midafternoon, several hearings were underway in six courtrooms across five floors of Federal District Court in Manhattan, attended by various agency representatives, defense and government lawyers, and defendants’ relatives. Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2024 That is where children had to learn such counterintuitive ideas as taking turns talking, listening to others with minds open to the possibility that others — even their own relatives — could be saying something worth hearing, and, if necessary, disagreeing without being disagreeable. Judith Martin, The Mercury News, 5 Feb. 2024 Kawano’s humble, reserved manner mirrored their own, relatives of the men observed. David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 28 Jan. 2024 And sure enough, she and two of her relatives get kidnapped by the next episode. David Zimmermann, National Review, 27 Jan. 2024
Adjective
Southern Africans living in the Later Stone Age had the highest relative rigidity in their tibial bones. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 9 Feb. 2024 Despite his relative wealth, the elder James Mohammad enjoyed holding court in these types of restaurants, which served the starchy Yoruba dishes of his youth, as opposed to the Euro-chic restaurants in Lagos that his nephew frequented. Elliot Ackerman, WIRED, 9 Feb. 2024 The rally also brought Nvidia’s 14-day relative strength index to 80, above the level of 70 that signals to some technical analysts that a stock is overbought. Ryan Vlastelica, Fortune, 9 Feb. 2024 Stalking about on two legs, the flesh-eater had a long and low skull of curved teeth and likely had short, stout arms tipped in large claws like its later relative Torvosaurus. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 Feb. 2024 The irony is deepened by the fact of the Chiefs’ own geographic provenance: Kansas City may be a small urban island of relative blue, but President Trump defeated Biden in 2020 by more than 15 points in the surrounding state of Missouri. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, 8 Feb. 2024 Economists say the relative decrease in trade with China is clearly linked to the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and then maintained by the Biden administration. Simon Romero, New York Times, 7 Feb. 2024 Before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Stasi was the largest secret police force in the world in relative terms, with one officer for every 165 East German citizens. Minxin Pei, Foreign Affairs, 6 Feb. 2024 Looking back, the fact that Quiros was having a relative conduct the project’s finances should have raised questions. Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker, 29 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'relative.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of relative was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near relative

Cite this Entry

“Relative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relative. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

relative

1 of 2 noun
rel·​a·​tive ˈrel-ət-iv How to pronounce relative (audio)
1
: a word referring grammatically to one that comes before it
2
: a person connected with another by blood or marriage

relative

2 of 2 adjective
1
a
: introducing a subordinate clause that qualifies an expressed or implied antecedent
relative pronoun
b
: introduced by a word having such an antecedent
relative clause
2
: relevant, pertinent
questions relative to the topic
3
: existing in comparison to something else
the relative value of two houses
4
: having the same key signature
used of major and minor keys and scales
relativeness noun

Legal Definition

relative

adjective
rel·​a·​tive
1
: not absolute
2
in the civil law of Louisiana : having or allowing some legal effect
a relative impediment
a relative simulation
see also relative nullity at nullity
relatively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on relative

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