noun re·lief \ ri-ˈlēf \
|Updated on: 14 Jul 2018

Definition of relief

1 : a payment made by a male feudal tenant to his lord on succeeding to an inherited estate
2 a : removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing
b : welfare 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
[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
7 a : 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

Examples of relief in a Sentence

  1. I felt such a sense of relief after I finished my thesis.

  2. He expressed relief that the crisis was finally over.

  3. Much to everyone's relief, the airplane took off without any problems.

  4. What a relief it is to be back home.

  5. Exercise is an excellent source of stress relief.

  6. Both candidates promised tax relief for middle-class families.

  7. Countries from around the world have been sending relief to the flood victims.

  8. We donated to the relief effort for the hurricane victims.

  9. My father lost his job and we had to go on relief.

Recent Examples of relief from the Web

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.

Illustration of relief

illustration of relief

Origin and Etymology of relief

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




Definition of relief

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

First Known Use of relief


in the meaning defined at sense 1

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RELIEF Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of relief for English Language Learners

  • : 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.

RELIEF Defined for Kids


noun re·lief \ ri-ˈlēf \

Definition of relief for Students

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
5 : welfare 2
6 : a sculpture in which figures or designs are raised from a background
7 : elevations of a land surface
  • The map shows relief.

Medical Dictionary


noun re·lief \ ri-ˈlēf \

medical Definition of relief

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

Law Dictionary


noun re·lief

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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