See more synonyms for relative on
  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. (opposed to 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.

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. 2018

Examples from the Web for relatives

Contemporary Examples of relatives

Historical Examples of relatives

  • Other relatives followed, and then most of the members of Parliament.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • But there over the mountains you have relatives, and you must return to them.

  • It is rather remarkable that so few of the letters are addressed to his own relatives.

  • Don't you think your relatives——Aren't you expected to go with Mildred—and Mrs. Palmer?

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

  • Perhaps you feel that a Parisian adventure mightn't please your—your relatives?

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

British Dictionary definitions for relatives


  1. having meaning or significance only in relation to something else; not absolutea relative value
  2. (prenominal) (of a scientific quantity) being measured or stated relative to some other substance or measurementrelative humidity; relative density Compare absolute (def. 10)
  3. (prenominal) comparative or respectivethe relative qualities of speed and accuracy
  4. (postpositive foll by to) 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 thatCompare demonstrative (def. 5), interrogative (def. 3)
  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 scaleC 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
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 relatives



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