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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Doctors are still monitoring George Rogers’ recovery in Pittsburgh and Casey Rogers has returned to Fresno -- but both men have met with the families of the other two men -- and a relative of Corbin’s now wants to be a donor. Fox News, "California man gets liver, nephew donates liver -- in separate operations: report," 30 July 2020 Police say that on that day, around 11:30 a.m., a relative of Ienzi’s was asleep in an upstairs bedroom and was awakened by a loud noise and the sound of Ienzi yelling. Dan Morse, Washington Post, "Arrest made in Montgomery County fatal stabbing," 29 July 2020 My heart goes out to anyone who must deal with this frightening diagnosis, or is a caregiver or relative of one who is afflicted. G. Allen Johnson,, "Review: ‘Relic’ a heartbreaking horror allegory of dementia and family love," 7 July 2020 The now-former Panama official who allegedly benefited from the scheme, described by prosecutors as a close relative of the Martinelli brothers and who served from 2009 to 2014, wasn’t named in the complaint. Jack Hagel, WSJ, "Sons of Former President of Panama Charged in Odebrecht Bribery Case," 7 July 2020 Social media posts from a person identified as a relative indicated that police arrested the white woman and confiscated her guns. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "VIDEO: White woman pulls gun on black mother and daughter she bumped into at Chipotle," 2 July 2020 The parishioner may have been exposed through a relative. Jessica Flores, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus updates: More states close bars, slow reopening plans; Gilead Sciences sets price for remdesivir treatments," 29 June 2020 Use humor and tolerance if impatience or anger builds regarding a relative., "Horoscope," 12 June 2020 Police said Turner had gotten into a heated argument with a relative. César G. Rodriguez, Houston Chronicle, "Laredo man pleads guilty to strangling kitten," 10 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In the Lakers’ case, Vogel has more relative wiggle room to determine the depth chart because of the absences to Rondo and Avery Bradley, who opted out to stay home with his family. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Is the NBA experiencing growing pains or warning signs with campus setup?," 14 July 2020 Thus, their portfolio these days includes relative newcomers on the Lodi scene such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Aglianico. Mike Dunne,, "LangeTwins is essential to Lodi's history in wine," 13 July 2020 Anderson’s family members called police to help her during a mental-health episode at a relative’s home on Ansel Road. Cory Shaffer, cleveland, "Ex-Cleveland safety director said Tanisha Anderson’s death wasn’t an aggravating circumstance in disciplining officers, monitor says," 13 July 2020 The boy, who recently finished the sixth grade, was headed to a relative’s home to get ear buds and a cellphone charger. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, "Police say D.C. boy killed at cookout was hit by stray bullet from street gang," 11 July 2020 Seeing the contextual reality of the data and thus being able to understand relative risks helps Nuzzo cope with what might otherwise be constant worry. Kristen Rogers, CNN, "Johns Hopkins' dashboard: The people behind the pandemic's most visited site," 11 July 2020 Another relative plans to give them an equal dollar amount in order to remain fair to both. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "She wants marriage, he wants a clean shave," 10 July 2020 Another relative plans to give them an equal dollar amount in order to remain fair to both. Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, "Ask Amy: Woman ‘devastated’ to hear her 71 year old boyfriend of 10 years has no plans to marry her," 10 July 2020 He's been drinking the same cheap beer at the same resort with the same group of relative strangers for at least thousands of days. Emily Tannenbaum, Glamour, "Palm Springs Is the Perfect Vacation From Your Infinite Quarantine Time Loop," 10 July 2020

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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Time Traveler for relative

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for relative

Last Updated

2 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Relative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for relative


How to pronounce relative (audio)

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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