Origin of relative

1350–1400; Middle English relatif (noun) (< Middle French) < Late Latin relātīvus (adj.); see relate, -ive
Related formsnon·rel·a·tive, noun, adjectivenon·rel·a·tive·ly, adverbnon·rel·a·tive·ness, nounun·rel·a·tive, adjectiveun·rel·a·tive·ly, adverb

Usage note

11. See who. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for relative

Contemporary Examples of relative

Historical Examples of relative

  • To her, the relative importance of the farm to Billy was as simple as a problem in addition.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • I might be said to be without a friend, or relative, in the world.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • This proprietor was a man of great opulence, and a relative of Naomi.

  • "My relative believes that Mr. Harkless is still alive," said Meredith.

  • He was another friend, and even a relative, of the "illustrious master."

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

British Dictionary definitions for relative



having meaning or significance only in relation to something else; not absolutea relative value
(prenominal) (of a scientific quantity) being measured or stated relative to some other substance or measurementrelative humidity; relative density Compare absolute (def. 10)
(prenominal) comparative or respectivethe relative qualities of speed and accuracy
(postpositive foll by to) in proportion (to); corresponding (to)earnings relative to production
having reference (to); pertinent (to)matters not relative to the topic under discussion
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 thatCompare demonstrative (def. 5), interrogative (def. 3)
grammar denoting or relating to a clause (relative clause) that modifies a noun or pronoun occurring earlier in the sentence
(of a musical key or scale) having the same key signature as another key or scaleC major is the relative major of A minor


a person who is related by blood or marriage; relation
a relative pronoun, clause, or grammatical construction
Derived Formsrelativeness, noun

Word Origin for relative

C16: from Late Latin relātīvus referring
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 relative

late 14c., "a relative pronoun," from Old French relatif (13c.), from Late Latin relativus "having reference or relation," from Latin relatus, past participle of referre "to refer" (see refer). Meaning "person in the same family" first recorded 1650s.


early 15c., "having reference," from Middle French relatif and directly from Late Latin relativus (see relative (n.)). Meaning "compared to each other" is from 1590s; that of "depending on a relationship to something else" is from 1610s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper