rel·​a·​tive | \ ˈre-lə-tiv How to pronounce relative (audio) \

Definition of relative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a word referring grammatically to an antecedent
2 : a thing having a relation to or connection with or necessary dependence on another thing
3a : a person connected with another by blood or affinity
b : an animal or plant related to another by common descent
4 : a relative term



Definition of relative (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Synonyms & Antonyms for relative

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Noun

  • nonrelative

Antonyms: Adjective

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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 That alternate’s relative has admitted smoking marijuana with Fox during a chance encounter near the governor’s vacation home, according to the Detroit Free Press. Robert Snell, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Aug. 2022 Then she was fired from a grocery store job in February after taking time off to help a relative. Michael Casey, Chicago Tribune, 10 Aug. 2022 Subsequently, Emmett was kidnapped from a relative's home, beaten severely, and mutilated before being shot. Tristan Balagtas, Peoplemag, 9 Aug. 2022 That case involved potentially many more vehicles than the relative of handful of BZ4Xes, but Bolt owners were able to, at least, continue using their vehicles with certain restrictions. Peter Valdes-dapena, CNN, 8 Aug. 2022 So those occurrences don’t prove the case that monkeypox will follow the same path its viral relative did. Wired, 5 Aug. 2022 Another episode closely observes a community's rituals of farewell, as an old relative's impending demise brings out a couple lifetimes of bad memories. Darren Franich,, 3 Aug. 2022 About 45 minutes after Crovetti posted the SOS call on Facebook, a relative sent another photo of her grandmother, this time hooked up to oxygen in a hospital. Jonathan Edwards, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 Chloe Adams waited hours until daylight before a relative in a kayak arrived and moved them to safety, first taking her dog, Sandy, and then the teenager. CBS News, 1 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Although household balance sheets remain in a position of relative strength, there is a fear factor at work, said Tamara Charm, partner and leader of the insights function at consulting firm McKinsey. Martha C. White For Cnn Business, CNN, 12 Aug. 2022 The stock is overbought, and relative strength has been falling for almost two months. Bill Sarubbi, Forbes, 8 Aug. 2022 With a population of almost 40,000, the Yanomami, whose land straddles Brazil and Venezuela, is the largest Indigenous group living in relative isolation in the Amazon. New York Times, 2 Aug. 2022 On one hand, Oz’s relative strength in more urban areas — winning the Republican vote in Pennsylvania’s Big City (Philadelphia) and its Exurbs — shows the GOP nominee may have a different path to winning in the state than Trump did. Dante Chinni, NBC News, 10 June 2022 Though different social and economic forces were at play, the Covid lockdowns reminded many of the relative cultural isolation of Australia in the 1980s. Vogue, 17 May 2022 The new poll shows relative strength for the president on handling the war in Ukraine and COVID. Byrick Klein,averi Harper, ABC News, 2 May 2022 All that pandemic-era remote work and social distancing has been a windfall for Airbnb, as more travelers favored the relative isolation of an Airbnb over a hotel. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, 29 Apr. 2022 Some bacteria types depend on many other individuals for survival and need space to form large communities, but others require relative isolation so they are not killed by their neighbors. Joanna Thompson, Scientific American, 22 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'relative.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of relative


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for relative

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near relative



relative adjective

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Statistics for relative

Last Updated

15 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Relative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for relative


rel·​a·​tive | \ ˈre-lə-tiv How to pronounce relative (audio) \

Kids Definition of relative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person connected with another by ancestry or marriage



Kids Definition of relative (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : existing in comparison to something else What is the relative value of the two houses?
2 : relevant Please ask questions relative to the topic.

Other Words from relative

relatively adverb It's been a relatively dry year.



Legal Definition of relative

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

Other Words from relative

relatively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on relative

Nglish: Translation of relative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of relative for Arabic Speakers


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