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verb (used with object)
  1. to make less tense, rigid, or firm; make lax: to relax the muscles.
  2. to diminish the force of.
  3. to slacken or abate, as effort, attention, etc.
  4. to make less strict or severe, as rules, discipline, etc.: to relax the requirements for a license.
  5. to release or bring relief from the effects of tension, anxiety, etc.: A short swim always relaxes me.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to become less tense, rigid, or firm.
  2. to become less strict or severe; grow milder.
  3. to reduce or stop work, effort, application, etc., especially for the sake of rest or recreation.
  4. to release oneself from inhibition, worry, tension, etc.
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Origin of relax

1350–1400; Middle English relaxen < Latin relaxāre to stretch out again, loosen, equivalent to re- re- + laxāre to loosen, derivative of laxus slack, lax
Related formsre·lax·a·tive, re·lax·a·tory [ri-lak-suh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /rɪˈlæk səˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, adjectivere·lax·er, nouno·ver·re·lax, verbun·re·lax·ing, adjective


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1, 6. tighten, tense.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for relax

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There was a clutch on her throat just then, which would not relax at the call of her will.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Whatever others might do he must not allow himself to relax so much.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • It has however served to weaken her prepossessions, and relax the chains of her attachment.


    William Godwin

  • He had told us to relax—but to do anything else would have been impossible.

  • Alone in the control compartment, he tried to relax, but it was not possible.

    Pariah Planet

    Murray Leinster

British Dictionary definitions for relax


  1. to make (muscles, a grip, etc) less tense or rigid or (of muscles, a grip, etc) to become looser or less rigid
  2. (intr) to take rest or recreation, as from work or efforton Sundays, she just relaxes; she relaxes by playing golf
  3. to lessen the force of (effort, concentration, etc) or (of effort) to become diminished
  4. to make (rules or discipline) less rigid or strict or (of rules, etc) to diminish in severity
  5. (intr) (of a person) to become less formal; unbend
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Derived Formsrelaxable, adjectiverelaxed, adjectiverelaxedly (rɪˈlæksɪdlɪ), adverb

Word Origin

C15: from Latin relaxāre to loosen, from re- + laxāre to loosen, from laxus loose, lax
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 relax


late 14c., "to make (something) less compact or dense," from Old French relaschier "set free; soften; reduce" (14c.), from Latin relaxare "relax, loosen, open, stretch out, widen again; make loose," from re- "back" (see re-) + laxare "loosen," from laxus "loose" (see lax). Of persons, "to become less formal," from 1837. Meaning "decrease tension" is from early 15c.; intransitive sense of "to become less tense" is recorded from 1935. Related: Relaxed; relaxing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

relax in Medicine


  1. To make or become lax or loose.
  2. To relieve or become relieved from tension or strain.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.