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

Police collected video of the incident from Macy's and also spoke to a relative of Jones' who identified her as the person from the Macy's incident. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A Milwaukee woman led police on a 100 mph chase through rush hour traffic in Wauwatosa, complaint says," 9 Aug. 2019 Nicholasa Velazquez was shot in the face and stomach, but relatives said her prognosis is good. Washington Post, "Families struggling to cope after mass shootings," 8 Aug. 2019 The faux princess was accompanied by a German man named Baron Embs, who claimed to be a relative of hers, and by the Baron de Schenk, who acted as a kind of private secretary. National Geographic, "This 'pretender princess' tried to steal Catherine the Great's throne," 6 Aug. 2019 The grandparents had just parked their car when the gunman approached, relatives told KTSM. Chris Harris,, "Heroes, Grandparents and Role Models: Remembering the Victims of the El Paso Mass Shooting," 5 Aug. 2019 Johnson — who relatives say was always willing to do anything for his family — was among those killed. Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News, "A 'hero' grandfather, a teen, an Army vet: These are the victims of the El Paso massacre," 5 Aug. 2019 One of the victims of the Ohio shooting was a mother of two who had a newborn daughter, a relative said. CBS News, "Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting: What we know about the victims," 5 Aug. 2019 Her husband tried to shield both of them, relatives said. New York Times, "Families of El Paso Victims Waited in Anguish After Shooting," 5 Aug. 2019 Jessica Coca Garcia and Memo Garcia were at the Walmart in El Paso to raise funds for a youth sports team one of their children played on when a gunman opened fire, wounding them, a relative said. Morgan Lee, Anchorage Daily News, "Shooting victims include a mom who died protecting her baby," 4 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

No more of this waiting around until August, then offering Brady (relative) scraps. Ben Volin,, "Tom Brady’s contract works both ways," 12 Aug. 2019 Despite their relative lack of exposure to England's top flight, the pair put in strong performances and gained valuable Premier League experience in an otherwise chastening day out at Old Trafford., "Frank Lampard Fields Chelsea's Youngest Ever Premier League Matchday 1 Lineup in 4-0 Man Utd Loss," 12 Aug. 2019 The relative youth of the tech sector has been an essential part of its decades-long dominance. Polina Marinova, Fortune, "Um, Where’s the Recession?: Term Sheet," 12 Aug. 2019 In the temporal code model, the relative timing between firings matters more—information is stored in the specific pattern of intervals between spikes, vaguely like Morse code. Meredith Fore, WIRED, "A Newfound Neuron Might Help Keep the Brain's Cells in Sync," 12 Aug. 2019 The relative rarity of random mass shootings has continued to complicate efforts to assess the problem and develop any potential solutions. Robert Salonga, The Mercury News, "Mass shootings like Dayton, El Paso, Gilroy more than doubled since Columbine," 11 Aug. 2019 As expected, given the relative paucity of Swedish speakers worldwide, most of the links came from Swedish-language sites. Jo Becker, New York Times, "The Global Machine Behind the Rise of Far-Right Nationalism," 10 Aug. 2019 Although Denver got dinged for longer commute times and slightly higher crime rates, what pushed it down the most in the ranking was a higher relative cost of living. Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post, "Denver only city to get top props from Boomers, Gen Xers and millennials in survey," 10 Aug. 2019 According to Yelp data, the relative demand for Korean food in San Francisco has grown by 80% since 2012. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: Updating the 49 Mile Route," 9 Aug. 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.

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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

15 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


a period when something is suspended

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