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

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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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Thunbergs are relatives of Svante Arrhenius, who Greta’s dad was named after. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "15-Year-Old Activist Greta Thunberg Schooled World Leaders on Climate Change at a United Nations Summit," 5 Dec. 2018 Neither Johnson nor Hargrave’s relatives immediately responded to a request for comment from PEOPLE. Char Adams,, "New Jersey Man Finds His Wife and Her Alleged Lover Dead in Garage from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning," 11 July 2018 The couple married in 1983, had a daughter, and settled in Zaragoza, where some of Puri’s relatives had gone after Manuel Lapeña’s disappearance. Matías Costa, Smithsonian, "The Battle Over the Memory of the Spanish Civil War," 28 June 2018 One of Freed’s relatives recently paid Maple Shade Township $118,345.50 in restitution on his behalf, Coffina said. Robert Moran,, "Ex-chief gets prison for $118,000 theft from his former Burlco rescue squad," 22 June 2018 Discovered by a local Buddhist monk, the fossil shows these archaic human relatives lived on the roof of the world in the rarefied air at almost 11,000 feet—an altitude that would leave many people today starved for oxygen. Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, "Fossil Points to a Vanished Human Species in Himalayas," 1 May 2019 This will be a good time to go abroad or learn about distant relatives. Randon Rosenbohm, Allure, "What May’s Scorpio Horoscope Predictions Mean for You," 30 Apr. 2019 Some tests, like the one from Embark, can even find doggy relatives for your pup based on DNA percentages. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "Dog DNA Tests Are Selling Fast on Amazon—Here’s How They Can Help Your Pup," 26 Apr. 2019 The four onscreen relatives have not been all together under the same roof since Game of Thrones's first season, but that may soon change, as Jon is traveling to Winterfell with Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her armies. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams Were Too Cute at the Game of Thrones Premiere in Belfast," 12 Apr. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But summer league does have value in exploring young players' relative strengths and weaknesses heading into training camp in September. Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "Hornets takeaways from Vegas on a trimmer Miles Bridges, a savvy Devonte Graham, more," 10 July 2018 Research into how the amygdala responds as people assess the relative importance of differences, such as race, is nuanced and complex. Leslie Henderson, Scientific American, "Why Our Brains See the World as "Us" versus "Them"," 22 June 2018 That's especially true given that Hani's brought on a relative unknown in chef Mark Bestmann, a newcomer late of Boston enoteca Coppa prior to a brief stop on the line at Bad Hunter. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Saba is stealthy Italian that might surprise traditionalists," 31 May 2018 The relative importance of farms, agribusinesses (such as seed and fertilizer suppliers), packagers and processors have also fallen slightly since 1993. Caitlin Dewey,, "Farmers reap just pennies of total food cost, study finds," 2 May 2018 Toward the end of the novel, the narrator and her mother talk about the relative importance of children in a woman’s life in an exchange that is bittersweet and lovely. Maggie Doherty, The New Republic, "On Not Becoming a Mother," 25 Apr. 2018 Advertising At least one witness cannot be a relative, entitled to any portion of the person’s estate, the owner of the health care facility where the patient is getting treatment or a worker there, or be the patient’s doctor. Mike Catalini, The Seattle Times, "New Jersey law allows terminally ill to get life-ending meds," 13 Apr. 2019 Further Reading Hackers unlock NES Classic, upload new games via USB cable The relative ease of PlayStation Classic hacking stands in stark contrast to similar efforts on the NES and Super NES Classic Edition systems. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Cryptography failure leads to easy hacking for PlayStation Classic," 10 Dec. 2018 There’s much to appreciate in [creator and showrunner Steven] Conrad’s mastery of building tension toward ludicrous outcomes in some case, or punctuating stretches of relative calm with explosions of chaos and violence. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Amazon’s unheralded spy dramedy returns for a second season.," 20 Nov. 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for relative

Last Updated

23 May 2019

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Time Traveler for relative

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

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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

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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).


one that collects or salvages junk

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