rel·a·tive | \ˈre-lə-tiv \

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

applicable, apposite, apropos, germane, material, pertinent, pointed, relevant

Antonyms: Noun


Antonyms: Adjective

extraneous, immaterial, impertinent, inapplicable, inapposite, irrelative, irrelevant, pointless

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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

More recently, the foundation created the relationship with Modena, Italy, where many local residents have relatives. Karen Berkowitz,, "Puerta Vallarta and Highland Park work to show value of people-to-people diplomacy," 13 July 2018 After his death it was passed over to relatives, who promptly sold it. Luke Leitch, Vogue, "Male Patterned Boldness: Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Sartoria Ode to Villa Carlotta," 9 July 2018 Grieving relatives and colleagues also attended memorial services recently for community reporter and editor Wendi Winters and assistant editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen. Michael Kunzelman, Fox News, "Capital staffer remembered as 'smart, beautiful, talented'," 10 July 2018 The boy, then 5, was the lone survivor and he was taken in by relatives in Miami who enlisted Kavanaugh’s help to keep Elian in America. Wayne K. Roustan,, "Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has worked on high-profile South Florida cases," 10 July 2018 No one has publicly defended Strauss since the investigation began, and relatives haven't responded to messages left by the AP. Kantele Franko, Adnrew Welsh-huggins, John Seewer,, "Ex-athletes say Ohio State doc groped, ogled men for years," 6 July 2018 Unlike in American wedding parties, royal bridal attendants are typically kids, usually young relatives or children of the bride and groom's close friends. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Who Will Be the Page Boys in Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's Wedding?," 5 July 2018 Then one of my husband’s relatives showed up for an unplanned visit. Heather Havrilesky, The Cut, "‘I’m a Single Mom and My Friends Walk All Over Me’," 4 July 2018 Emmett Till, age 14, leaves home in Chicago to visit relatives in Mississippi. Mary Schmich,, "The painful and necessary growth Emmett Till gave us," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

His indictment states that before leaving for Charlottesville, a relative of Fields texted him asking him to be careful. Robert Strickley,, "NKY native James Alex Fields pleads not guilty in Charlottesville attack," 5 July 2018 Now on her own, Maggie makes her way as a freelance monster hunter, tracking down magical creatures that threaten the relative safety of Dinétah. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Trail of Lightning is a breathtaking Native American urban fantasy adventure," 26 June 2018 But in practiced hands, the trick shot can let a player seem to cover the entire court with relative ease, even in the most desperate situations. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Mario Tennis Aces review: Turning tennis into a fighting game," 22 June 2018 These thousands of kids are often brought to detention facilities, and then are placed with sponsors — either a relative or family friend in the US, or in foster care. Jen Kirby, Vox, "The 2,300 migrant kids already separated won’t immediately be reunited with parents," 21 June 2018 The relative told police Williams left him a box of laundry detergent. Heather Nolan,, "Man pleads guilty in fatal 2015 Marigny shooting, gets 20-year sentence," 11 May 2018 Last July, Duane was in her kitchen getting ready to drop off her 10-month-old daughter Maggie with a relative and head to work. Madeleine Marr, miamiherald, "One minute she was getting ready for work. The next she was on the floor, unable to move | Miami Herald," 7 May 2018 If a child is removed, DCS will seek a temporary placement with a relative or, failing that, a foster home or group home. The Republic |, "Understand the system | Child-welfare investigators just knocked on my door. What do I do now?," 13 Apr. 2018 The relative calm came amid a strike by mini-bus and taxi drivers, as well as the closure of most businesses. NBC News, "Strike shuts down Haiti capital after three days of protests," 9 July 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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Phrases Related to relative

blood relative

it's all relative

Statistics for relative

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

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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 \

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

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a generally accepted meaning of a word

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