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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for relative

Synonyms: Noun

cousin, kin, kinsman, relation

Synonyms: Adjective

almost, approximate, comparative, near

Antonyms: Noun


Antonyms: Adjective

absolute, complete, downright, out-and-out, outright, perfect, pure, unqualified

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of relative in a Sentence


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.


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

Family will greet friends and relatives on Sunday, July 14, 2019, from 2:00PM to 4:00PM at Robinson, Wright & Weymer Funeral Home, 34 Main Street, Centerbrook., "Edward Wilfred Counter," 11 July 2019 Friends and relatives have publicly clashed in Facebook posts. Jessie Yeung, CNN, "Family feuds and social media spats: The generational divide that's splitting apart Hong Kong," 9 July 2019 Friends and relatives are raising money for the family on a GoFundMe page. The Bulletin,, "4-month-old girl dies after being hit by vehicle at Madras Speedway; witnesses sought," 9 July 2019 About 20 friends and relatives of the victims packed the courtroom. Michael Cabanatuan,, "Man charged with luring, killing two on remote San Mateo road pleads not guilty," 8 July 2019 Orphaned and seemingly completely isolated, with no friends or other relatives, Dani is both tethered solely to Christian and vulnerable to the wiles of a surrogate family, however malevolent. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Midsommar,” Reviewed: Ari Aster’s Backwards Horror Story of an American Couple in Sweden," 8 July 2019 In a private ceremony at Windsor Castle, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's son, Archie, will be christened in front of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's closest friends and relatives on July 6. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Royal Baby Archie's Christening Date Has a Special Connection to Princess Diana," 6 July 2019 Now, the sneaker Joaquin wore on the basketball court is the first artifact of what his dad envisions as a visual archive of left-behind items curated by friends and relatives of gun violence victims. Jeff Truesdell,, "Parkland Dad Gathers 'Incomplete' Items Left Behind by Victims to Show Devastation of Gun Violence," 10 June 2019 Many women ran as members of teams formed in honor of friends or relatives with breast cancer. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Dalton and Brennan stage another Run for Women duel, and Kikkan Randall steals the show," 9 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Uterine transplants have enabled more than a dozen women to give birth, usually with wombs donated from a living donor such as a friend or relative. CBS News, "First baby born in U.S. from dead donor's transplanted womb," 10 July 2019 More Stories Avoiding any discussion of death is common in China—to spare your older relative, and everyone around them, the trauma of hearing bad medical news. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Farewell Is a Gorgeous Tale of Family and Mortality," 10 July 2019 Though such as with Fekir, both of these deals has been slowed by Arsenal's relative lack of financial pulling power., "Nabil Fekir's Arsenal Move Could Be Dependent on the Sale of Gunners Big Earner," 3 July 2019 The relative lack of iron suggested by the moon’s small core is evidence that Earth had already formed an iron-rich center when the giant impact occurred, leaving little iron to form the moon. Erica Jawin, Scientific American, "Apollo’s Bounty: The Science of the Moon Rocks," 2 July 2019 In fact, all guests must be over 18 years old to board, and those between 18 and 21 must travel with a relative or guardian who is 25 or older. Janine Rubenstein,, "See Cardi Perform for the First Time Since Court Appearance on Bahamian Days of Summer Cruise," 30 June 2019 The relative quiet was broken Sunday night by what Israel described as an intelligence-gathering mission gone wrong. Dov Lieber, WSJ, "Israel, Gaza Militants Exchange Heavy Fire After Raid Goes Awry," 12 Nov. 2018 After decades spent languishing in relative obscurity, the Negroni is experiencing a comeback just in time for its 100th birthday. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Approaching Its 100th Birthday, The Negroni is Having a Comeback," 28 June 2019 And the media’s relative lack of interest in exposing hoaxes that don’t involve famous figures is a big part of the problem. Jason L. Riley, WSJ, "Hate Crime Hoaxes Are More Common Than You Think," 25 June 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of relative


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about relative

Statistics for relative

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for relative

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for relative



English Language Learners Definition of relative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a member of your family
: something that belongs to the same group as something else because of shared characteristics, qualities, etc.



English Language Learners Definition of relative (Entry 2 of 2)

: compared to someone or something else or to each other
: seeming to be something when compared with others
grammar : referring to a noun, a part of a sentence, or a sentence that was used earlier


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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on relative

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for relative

Spanish Central: Translation of relative

Nglish: Translation of relative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of relative for Arabic Speakers

Comments on relative

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


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


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!