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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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

My diagnosis of Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, meant high-intensity and contact sports were off the table for me—which felt like more of a relief than a deprival at the time. Wellesley Boboc, SELF, "7 Easy Things That Have Helped Me Stop Hate Running and Actually Kind of Enjoy It," 15 Nov. 2018 Sedona is renowned for its healing powers, and that night, our last, we were mellowed by a powerful sense of relief that our journey would soon be over. Anne Slowey, Condé Nast Traveler, "Fear and Self-Loathing in the American Southwest," 25 July 2018 Faraday Future was simply allowed by the court there to seek up to $500 million in new, outside money as a means of relief while the case proceeded. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Faraday Future says its main investor is ‘deliberately starving’ it into bankruptcy," 9 Nov. 2018 That may cause some twisting and turning, but it is coupled with a sense of relief that the end is in sight. Marie Claire, "With One Week Until Election Day, the Boxers Share Advice and Insight," 30 Oct. 2018 Outlander fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Outlander is Renewed for Seasons 5 and 6," 7 Oct. 2018 Since 2012, the Open Homes Program has responded to more than 250 disasters to help evacuees, relief workers, and eventually even refugees. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Airbnb Offers Free Accommodations For Emergency Workers And Evacuees Fleeing Hurricane Florence," 13 Sep. 2018 Any host can volunteer and open up to evacuees, refugees, victims' family members (like in the case of the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016), or relief workers deployed to the area, among others. Meredith Carey, Condé Nast Traveler, "Airbnb Has $0 Listings for Hurricane Florence Evacuees," 12 Sep. 2018 Yesterday, Osaka finally had the chance to breathe a sigh of relief and take it all in. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "U.S. Open Champion Naomi Osaka Gets an Endorsement From Japan’s Most Major Fashion Brand," 10 Sep. 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

1 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on relief

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with relief

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for relief

Spanish Central: Translation of relief

Nglish: Translation of relief for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of relief for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about relief

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).


to enclose within walls

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