re·lief | \ri-ˈlēf \

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

b : welfare sense 2a

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

alleviation, comfort, ease, release

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Examples of relief in a Sentence


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

That’s not to say that sanctions relief is an entirely bad idea or that business with the North should be avoided. David Volodzko, The New Republic, "The Corporate Gangs Who Could Profit From Trade With North Korea," 26 June 2018 The arbitrator shall be empowered to grant whatever relief would be available in a court under law or in equity., "San Diego Union-Tribune Terms of Service," 25 June 2018 Congress must act, but President Trump will take action to provide whatever relief is within executive authority. Alexander Acosta, WSJ, "A Health Fix For Mom and Pop Shops," 18 June 2018 However, for some, relief is on the way thanks to a company called Comprehensive Design Services (CDS). Justice Ilevbare, The Christian Science Monitor, "One company's plan to create affordable green housing in Nigeria," 14 June 2018 What Trump's candidacy in 2016 portrayed in stark relief was that the base of the party was miles away from the establishment of the party. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "Tuesday's results show the dangers of crossing Donald Trump," 13 June 2018 So, if your cable company does start slowing down Netflix in order to give a boost to its own services, relief could be a long way away. David Meyer, Fortune, "Net Neutrality Is Officially Dead in the U.S.—Here's What Happens Next," 11 June 2018 On a team with starting rotation that is flirting with immortality and a lineup among baseball’s best, leaky relief has been a problem. San Antonio Express-News, "Whitley picks up where he left off," 8 June 2018 Their middle relief is erratic at times, and there have been questions about whether the team is too reliant on the long ball. Wallace Matthews, New York Times, "Yankees Display Their Flaws, but Still Beat the Braves," 3 July 2018

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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Statistics for relief

Last Updated

6 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for relief

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

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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 \

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 \

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

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


one that holds something together

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