[verb ri-laps; noun ri-laps, ree-laps]

verb (used without object), re·lapsed, re·laps·ing.

to fall or slip back into a former state, practice, etc.: to relapse into silence.
to fall back into illness after convalescence or apparent recovery.
to fall back into vice, wrongdoing, or error; backslide: to relapse into heresy.


an act or instance of relapsing.
a return of a disease or illness after partial recovery from it.

Nearby words

  1. rekindle,
  2. rekt,
  3. rel.,
  4. rel. pron.,
  5. reladle,
  6. relapsing fever,
  7. relapsing polychondritis,
  8. relata,
  9. relate,
  10. related

Origin of relapse

1400–50; (v.) late Middle English < Latin relāpsus, past participle of relābī to slide back, revert (re- re- + lāb- v. stem + -sus for -tus past participle suffix); (noun) late Middle English < Medieval Latin relāpsus, equivalent to Latin relāb(ī) + -sus for -tus suffix of v. action

Related formsre·laps·a·ble, adjectivere·laps·er, nounun·re·laps·ing, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for relapse

British Dictionary definitions for relapse


verb (rɪˈlæps) (intr)

to lapse back into a former state or condition, esp one involving bad habits
to become ill again after apparent recovery

noun (rɪˈlæps, ˈriːˌlæps)

the act or an instance of relapsing
the return of ill health after an apparent or partial recovery
Derived Formsrelapser, noun

Word Origin for relapse

C16: from Latin relabī to slip back, from re- + labī to slip, slide

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for relapse
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for relapse




To regress after partial recovery from illness.
To slip back into bad ways; backslide.
To fall or slide back into a former state.


A falling back into a former state, especially the return of symptoms following an apparent recovery.recurrence

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.