re·​lief | \ ri-ˈlēf How to pronounce relief (audio) \

Definition of relief

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a payment made by a male feudal tenant to his lord on succeeding to an inherited estate
2a : removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing
c : military assistance to an endangered post or force
d : means of breaking or avoiding monotony or boredom : diversion
3 : release from a post or from the performance of duty
4 : one that takes the place of another on duty
5 : legal remedy or redress
6 [French, from Middle French, from Italian rilievo relievo]
a : a mode of sculpture in which forms and figures are distinguished from a surrounding plane surface
b : sculpture or a sculptural form executed in this mode
c : projecting detail, ornament, or figures
7a : sharpness of outline due to contrast a roof in bold relief against the sky
b : the state of being distinguished by contrast throws the two opinions into bold relief
8 : the elevations or inequalities of a land surface
9 : the pitching done by a relief pitcher two innings of hitless relief



Definition of relief (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : providing relief
2 : characterized by surface inequalities
3 : of or used in letterpress

Illustration of relief

Illustration of relief


relief 6b

In the meaning defined above

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Synonyms for relief

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of relief in a Sentence

Noun I felt such a sense of relief after I finished my thesis. He expressed relief that the crisis was finally over. Much to everyone's relief, the airplane took off without any problems. What a relief it is to be back home. Exercise is an excellent source of stress relief. Both candidates promised tax relief for middle-class families. Countries from around the world have been sending relief to the flood victims. We donated to the relief effort for the hurricane victims. My father lost his job and we had to go on relief.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Helping to keep the lights on, and to bring back two more employees, is the city’s new $1.9 million relief plan for Chinatown restaurants. Janelle Bitker, San Francisco Chronicle, "S.F.'s 100-year-old Hang Ah, the country's oldest dim sum restaurant, is determined to survive," 11 Feb. 2021 Democrats want to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, and Mr. Biden is eager to sign it. Kathryn Watson, Melissa Quinn, CBS News, "Live Updates: Trump impeachment trial set to get underway in Senate," 9 Feb. 2021 Democrats are pushing to include the higher minimum wage as part of their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. Kevin Freling, Alan Fram And Josh Boak, Star Tribune, "$15 wage could ease poverty, add to debt," 8 Feb. 2021 According to the Center of Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University, this mix of benefits in Biden’s relief plan could cut child poverty by half in the U.S. Whizy Kim,, "Democrats Want To Give Every Child At Least $3,000 Per Year — But Will It Happen?," 8 Feb. 2021 Other questioners asked about the next federal COVID-19 relief plan, student debt forgiveness, gun rights and the role of pharmacy benefit managers in drug costs. Fox News, "Michigan GOP Rep. Meijer tries to defend anti-Trump impeachment vote, angers voters," 6 Feb. 2021 The Senate early Friday approved a budget that would allow fast-track passage of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan without support from Republicans. Chron, "Senate approves budget bill as Harris casts tie-breaker vote," 5 Feb. 2021 The jobs report landed shortly after Senate Democrats cast a decisive vote to muscle the COVID relief plan through the chamber without Republican support, a step toward final approval next month. Josh Boak, ajc, "Biden wants fast COVID aid, but minimum wage hike in doubt," 5 Feb. 2021 The Senate early Friday approved a measure that would let Democrats muscle President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan through the chamber without Republican support. Josh Boak, Anchorage Daily News, "Senate passes budget bill fast-tracking $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package," 5 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The anti-relief faction, with its sudden warnings about deficits, is eager to revive the Tea Party spirit, and its would-be leaders are ur-Tea Partyers like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Ross Douthat New York Times, Star Tribune, "In a post-Trump world, can the Tea Party rise again?," 4 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'relief.' 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 relief


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1776, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for relief


Middle English relef, relief, from Anglo-French, from relever to relieve

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Time Traveler for relief

Time Traveler

The first known use of relief was in the 14th century

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Statistics for relief

Last Updated

18 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Relief.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for relief



English Language Learners Definition of relief

: a pleasant and relaxed feeling that someone has when something unpleasant stops or does not happen
: the removal or reducing of something that is painful or unpleasant
: things (such as food, money, or medicine) that are given to help people who are victims of a war, earthquake, flood, etc.


re·​lief | \ ri-ˈlēf How to pronounce relief (audio) \

Kids Definition of relief

1 : the feeling of happiness that occurs when something unpleasant or distressing stops or does not happen What a relief to be home safe.
2 : removal or lessening of something painful or troubling I need relief from this headache.
3 : something that interrupts in a welcome way The rain was a relief from dry weather.
4 : release from a post or from performance of a duty relief of a guard
6 : a sculpture in which figures or designs are raised from a background
7 : elevations of a land surface The map shows relief.


re·​lief | \ ri-ˈlēf How to pronounce relief (audio) \

Medical Definition of relief

: removal or lightening of something oppressive or distressing relief of pain symptomatic relief

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Legal Definition of relief

: redress, assistance, or protection given by law especially from a court should state what relief the plaintiff seeks : as
a : release from obligation or duty relief from judgment
b : an order from a court granting a particular remedy (as return of property) injunctive relief declaratory relief — see also remedy

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Comments on relief

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