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

Sadly, the timing may not be ideal for one royal relative. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Why Prince William Might Miss the Birth of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Baby," 3 Apr. 2019 Like Thurman, people need time off to care for relatives at other times in their lives. Bryce Covert, Glamour, "America Could at Last Pass Paid Leave. But What Good Is a Plan That Excludes Millions of Women?," 2 Apr. 2019 In Connecticut, Richman was among the Sandy Hook relatives suing Infowars host Alex Jones for contending the Newtown shooting never happened. Terry Spencer, The Seattle Times, "Linked by pain: 2 school massacre survivors, dad kill selves," 26 Mar. 2019 Dementia stole three other close relatives as well. Paula Spencer Scott, Woman's Day, "I Participated in a Clinical Study to See if I Had Dementia — Here's What I Learned," 26 Mar. 2019 The screening involves controls, such as removing close relatives, to avoid skewing the ethnicity profile. Dieter Holger, PCWorld, "DNA testing for ancestry is more detailed for white people. Here’s why, and how it's changing," 4 Dec. 2018 Rossello, who said the island could experience power outages, urged people without sturdy roofs to move in with relatives or a government shelter. Steve Reilly, USA TODAY, "Caribbean islands brace for weakened but dangerous Tropical Storm Beryl," 8 July 2018 Many people with melasma also have relatives with the condition, the AAD notes. Korin Miller, SELF, "What You Should Know About Melasma, Those Random Dark Spots on Your Face," 27 Aug. 2018 Jadi Delgado, 15, was reported missing on June 29 while visiting relatives in the city. Britni Danielle,, "Chicago Police Are Asking For Help to Find Yet Another Missing Teen Girl," 3 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 On Costa Smeralda, life is certainly the most comfortable on the island, but throughout, there’s a relative ease in the air. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Learning From Sardinia, Where Locals Live La Dolce Vita Longer Than Anyone Else," 16 July 2018 After bursting onto the scene in the 2014/15 Premier League season, the pacy right back has locked down his position with relative ease., "Arsenal's Unai Emery Reportedly Views Barcelona Target Hector Bellerin as a Key Member of His Squad," 5 July 2018 Tayron Guerrero, Drew Steckenrider and Brad Ziegler all did their part with relative ease. Clark Spencer, miamiherald, "Marlins play into the Fourth of July, lose 16-inning marathon to Rays," 4 July 2018 While Bill and Ted travel to the past to pick up Socrates with relative ease, in reality scientists and researchers need to find a way to circumvent the rules of physics in order to travel back in time. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "We Already Know How To Build a Time Machine," 28 May 2018 Apart from the quality of the education, and less fierce competition for places than at China’s best universities, there is another powerful draw: the relative ease with which foreigners who have graduated in Australia can become resident there. The Economist, "Citizens of the worldWhy many rich Chinese don’t live in China," 17 May 2018 Barrett still snagged the football and completed the passes with relative ease. Larry Holder,, "Will Clapp looks to earn his own way onto Saints with Brother Martin, LSU roots," 12 May 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.

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

11 Apr 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).


to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
True or False

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

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!