View synonyms for relative


[ rel-uh-tiv ]


  1. a person who is connected with another or others by blood or marriage.
  2. something having, or standing in, some relation or connection to something else.
  3. something dependent upon external conditions for its specific nature, size, etc. ( absolute ).
  4. Grammar. a relative pronoun, adjective, or adverb.


  1. considered in relation to something else; comparative:

    the relative merits of democracy and monarchy.

  2. existing or having its specific nature only by relation to something else; not absolute or independent:

    Happiness is relative.

  3. having relation or connection.
  4. having reference or regard; relevant; pertinent (usually followed by to ):

    to determine the facts relative to an accident.

  5. correspondent; proportionate:

    Value is relative to demand.

  6. (of a term, name, etc.) depending for significance upon something else:

    “Better” is a relative term.

  7. Grammar.
    1. noting or pertaining to a word that introduces a subordinate clause of which it is, or is a part of, the subject or predicate and that refers to an expressed or implied element of the principal clause (the antecedent), as the relative pronoun who in He's the man who saw you or the relative adverb where in This is the house where she was born.
    2. noting or pertaining to a relative clause.


/ ˈrɛlətɪv /


  1. having meaning or significance only in relation to something else; not absolute

    a relative value

  2. prenominal (of a scientific quantity) being measured or stated relative to some other substance or measurement Compare absolute

    relative density

    relative humidity

  3. prenominal comparative or respective

    the relative qualities of speed and accuracy

  4. postpositivefoll byto in proportion (to); corresponding (to)

    earnings relative to production

  5. having reference (to); pertinent (to)

    matters not relative to the topic under discussion

  6. grammar denoting or belonging to a class of words that function as subordinating conjunctions in introducing relative clauses. In English, relative pronouns and determiners include who, which, and that Compare demonstrative interrogative
  7. grammar denoting or relating to a clause ( relative clause ) that modifies a noun or pronoun occurring earlier in the sentence
  8. (of a musical key or scale) having the same key signature as another key or scale

    C major is the relative major of A minor


  1. a person who is related by blood or marriage; relation
  2. a relative pronoun, clause, or grammatical construction

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Derived Forms

  • ˈrelativeness, noun

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Other Words From

  • non·rel·a·tive noun adjective
  • non·rel·a·tive·ly adverb
  • non·rel·a·tive·ness noun
  • un·rel·a·tive adjective
  • un·rel·a·tive·ly adverb

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Word History and Origins

Origin of relative1

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English relatif (noun), either from Middle French or from Late Latin relātīvus (adjective); relate, -ive

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Word History and Origins

Origin of relative1

C16: from Late Latin relātīvus referring

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. it’s all relative. it's all relative ( def ).

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Example Sentences

It’s not uncommon for a cheaper goalie — relative both to his backup and the rest of the league — to catch fire in the playoffs.

Antetokounmpo currently leads the playoffs in total defensive rebounds and overall rebounds, so his lack of minutes relative to other stars has not hampered his total production on defense, either.

When winds were strongly blowing from the south, and there was less sea ice, the relative amount of oxygen-18 increased.

As aerosol pollution from vehicles has declined, the relative contribution from other sources has grown.

If anything, the crampers started a little bit slower relative to their lab-measured fitness.

But relative to centuries past, America is a marvel of domestic tranquility.

Parents who want to transfer custody of a child to someone other than a relative must seek permission from a judge.

While traveling this holiday season, a relative and I were pulled over by a police officer.

Of course, this is The Comeback, and so "success" is a relative word.

Her son peeked out the window and told me his mother had left Havana for La Lisa to visit a dying relative.

But I suppose, as he is my nearest relative, it is but natural he should be anxious about my health.

This had been quite genuine, for the Professor had been fond of his relative, who had always been very good to him.

The relative quantity of labor embodied in each object is the basis of its value.

It is evident that an absolute increase of any variety may be accompanied by a relative decrease.

An increase in actual number is an absolute increase; an increase in percentage only, a relative increase.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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