relative

1 of 2

noun

rel·​a·​tive ˈre-lə-tiv How to pronounce relative (audio)
1
: a word referring grammatically to an antecedent
2
: a thing having a relation to or connection with or necessary dependence on another thing
3
a
: a person connected with another by blood or affinity
b
: an animal or plant related to another by common descent
4
: a relative term

relative

2 of 2

adjective

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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Their daughter, now an adult living in Canada, was just 6 when Mr. Pokhrel died, said the relative, Mr. Regmi. Mujib Mashal, New York Times, 16 Jan. 2023 The sheriff revealed that Renner had been using his snowplow to pull his car — which was being driven by a relative — out of the snow. Christi Carrasstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 5 Jan. 2023 Its closest relative, a fellow podocarp—a family of southern conifers—occurs in New Zealand. Jared Farmer, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Jan. 2023 The sporty puffer jacket now has a stylish relative—the padded coat. Madeline Fass, Vogue, 20 Dec. 2022 At least 17 members of one family were among those killed when a fire tore through a top-floor apartment in the Gaza Strip during a birthday party, a relative said Friday. Fatima Shbair, BostonGlobe.com, 18 Nov. 2022 One relative, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety, said Pelado’s ambitions were larger. Terrence Mccoy, Washington Post, 12 Oct. 2022 Franklin, who also was in the care of DCFS, was looking forward to her senior year at Curie High School and was anxiously awaiting the prom, a relative said from Florida, where family members were spending the Fourth of July holiday. Dan Petrella, Chicago Tribune, 3 July 2022 Gea Sierdsma, a distant Dutch relative of Santos who has researched the family's genealogy, and professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak both found no evidence of Jewish or Ukrainian roots in the Santos family tree. Peter Weber, The Week, 6 Jan. 2023
Adjective
In recent history alone, teams such as Auburn in 2010 and Oklahoma in 2000 have come out of relative obscurity to score shocking championships. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, 9 Jan. 2023 Ascend Agency has built a powerful reputation around taking brands from relative obscurity to profitable visibility. Billboard Staff, Billboard, 9 Jan. 2023 Vermeer died in debt and relative obscurity in 1675 at age 43. Ella Feldman, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Jan. 2023 This show argues that her relative obscurity, despite her many cultural contributions, may be a result of blacklisting by radio stations and industry executives. Laura Jane Standley, The Atlantic, 30 Dec. 2022 Bonnie Baxter — The Westminster College biologist and director of the Great Salt Lake Institute worked in relative obscurity until the famous body of water became infamous. Tim Fitzpatrick, The Salt Lake Tribune, 9 Dec. 2022 That Duggan emerged from relative obscurity – how many Heisman finalists don’t begin the season as a starter? – is a significant achievement. Dallas News, 9 Dec. 2022 Raducanu was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire following her historic exploits on the court, rising from relative obscurity to win the US Open in 2021 without dropping a set in the entire tournament. Max Foster, CNN, 2 Dec. 2022 Alabama rode that mentality from relative obscurity to within two wins of would be, perhaps the most improbable national title in recent memory. Michael Casagrande | Mcasagrande@al.com, al, 2 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near relative

Cite this Entry

“Relative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relative. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

relative

1 of 2 noun
rel·​a·​tive ˈrel-ət-iv How to pronounce relative (audio)
1
: a word referring grammatically to one that comes before it
2
: a person connected with another by blood or marriage

relative

2 of 2 adjective
1
a
: introducing a subordinate clause that qualifies an expressed or implied antecedent
relative pronoun
b
: introduced by a word having such an antecedent
relative clause
2
: relevant, pertinent
questions relative to the topic
3
: existing in comparison to something else
the relative value of two houses
4
: having the same key signature
used of major and minor keys and scales
relativeness noun

Legal Definition

relative

adjective
rel·​a·​tive
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
relatively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on relative

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?

PLAY