[ rel-uh-tiv ]
See synonyms for: relativerelatives 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.

  1. something dependent upon external conditions for its specific nature, size, etc. (opposed to absolute).

  2. 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.

  1. having relation or connection.

  2. having reference or regard; relevant; pertinent (usually followed by to): to determine the facts relative to an accident.

  3. correspondent; proportionate: Value is relative to demand.

  4. (of a term, name, etc.) depending for significance upon something else: “Better” is a relative term.

  5. Grammar.

    • 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.

    • noting or pertaining to a relative clause.

Idioms about relative

  1. it’s all relative. See entry at it's all relative.

Origin of relative

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

Other words from relative

  • 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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use relative in a sentence

  • A dish of toads of the largest and most repulsive variety used to be offered one by one to the big man's relatives and guests.

  • The mob of relatives and friends wrecked and burned the castle, massacring the retainers to a man.

  • One would have thought that half the dogs in the neighborhood had relatives coming from Columbia.

    A Lost Hero | Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward and Herbert D. Ward
  • Afterward, accompanied by his relatives, he proceeded to the room where were placed the tablets in memory of his ancestors.

    Our Little Korean Cousin | H. Lee M. Pike
  • He does not know yet that the larger estate a man leaves to his relatives the more useful his life has been.

British Dictionary definitions for relative


/ (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: relative humidity; relative density Compare absolute (def. 10)

  1. (prenominal) comparative or respective: the relative qualities of speed and accuracy

  2. (postpositive foll by to) in proportion (to); corresponding (to): earnings relative to production

  3. having reference (to); pertinent (to): matters not relative to the topic under discussion

  4. 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 (def. 5), interrogative (def. 3)

  5. grammar denoting or relating to a clause (relative clause) that modifies a noun or pronoun occurring earlier in the sentence

  6. (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

Origin of relative

C16: from Late Latin relātīvus referring

Derived forms of relative

  • relativeness, noun

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