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

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 DiMaggio said his in-laws live in Lemon Grove and his wife, Jessica, has relatives in El Cajon, so a move near family was also appealing. Karen Pearlman,, "El Cajon's new assistant city manager? His last name is DiMaggio. Yes, that DiMaggio," 10 July 2018 Theres sought out relatives of the Hello Girls and completed his film earlier this year, showing it in Milwaukee in May and on Wisconsin Public TV last month. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin documentarian sparks effort to honor World War I female phone operators with Congressional Gold Medal," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

An older friend or relative could become quite demanding., "Horoscope," 5 July 2018 For now, Iran remains governed by President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate with Iran’s theocracy whose administration brokered the deal. Washington Post, "AP Explains: Iran reopens uranium plant in its latest gamble," 28 June 2018 For now, Iran remains governed by President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate with Iran's theocracy whose administration brokered the deal. The Christian Science Monitor, "Iranian nuclear enrichment signals resistance to US sanctions," 28 June 2018 For now, Iran remains governed by President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate with Iran's theocracy whose administration brokered the deal. Fox News, "AP Explains: Iran reopens uranium plant in its latest gamble," 28 June 2018 Analysts believe hard-liners likely encouraged the first protest that took place in Mashhad to try to weaken President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate. Jon Gambrell, The Seattle Times, "Videos: Iran protesters confront police at parliament," 25 June 2018 Sitting just off stage as Trump touted his hard-line policies was Sen. Dean Heller, a relative moderate on immigration and the Senate's most vulnerable Republican facing reelection this fall. Philip Rucker, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump, stumping in Nevada, makes immigration a central midterms issue for GOP," 24 June 2018 Until then, Clark, his closest relative, would have inherited his assets. John Maccormack, San Antonio Express-News, "Igo relatives settle dispute over will," 26 Apr. 2018 The office shelters those children until a relative or family friend living in the United States comes forward to sponsor them. Colby Itkowitz, Washington Post, "The Health 202: ACLU asks court to force government to pay cost of reuniting migrant families," 13 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

26 Sep 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

What made you want to look up relative? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


characteristic trappings or dress

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