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

Major Turkish companies are now trying to persuade banks and other creditors to extend relief, perhaps portending a wave of bankruptcies that could leave financial institutions and taxpayers staring at untold losses. New York Times, "Turkey’s Economy Is So Hot That It May Face a Meltdown," 10 July 2018 For me, both of those exist at the same time — seeing climate change in sharp relief, and experiencing my life fully — which helps me to keep my cool. Alli Harvey, Anchorage Daily News, "Blast of heat reminds Alaskans how to keep their cool while playing hard," 9 July 2018 Ricardo Rodriguez took over for Gallardo in the sixth and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, his 2018 debut. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Rangers strike early, hold on to beat Tigers 7-5," 5 July 2018 But this time the sporting euphoria feels like a sigh of relief, after the constant confrontation of recent years. The Economist, "Russia shows another side at the World Cup," 5 July 2018 To get the best relief, allergy sufferers need to focus on prevention. Maureen Langley, Post-Tribune, "Experts: Indiana's allergy season worse than usual this year," 3 July 2018 Jose Diaz picked up the win in relief, walking two and striking out three over two innings. Randy Mcroberts, The Aegis, "Aberdeen slips back under .500 with Monday loss at home," 3 July 2018 Overnight lows will offer some relief, but not much., "It’s official — Boston is sweating a heat wave," 1 July 2018 To his relief, the Kings’ 20-year-old rookie realized the tabloid news website’s video featured teammate Willie Cauley-Stein telling reporters on Monday that Giles will be NBA Rookie of the Year. Angel Guerrero, sacbee, "Why Harry Giles is buying into Rookie of the Year talk before his Kings debut," 30 June 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

8 Sep 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).


a magnificent or impressive array

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