See more synonyms for relief on
  1. alleviation, ease, or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress, oppression, etc.
  2. a means or thing that relieves pain, distress, anxiety, etc.
  3. money, food, or other help given to those in poverty or need.
  4. something affording a pleasing change, as from monotony.
  5. release from a post of duty, as by the arrival of a substitute or replacement.
  6. the person or persons acting as replacement.
  7. the rescue of a besieged town, fort, etc., from an attacking force.
  8. the freeing of a closed space, as a tank or boiler, from more than a desirable amount of pressure or vacuum.
  9. Feudal Law. a fine or composition which the heir of a feudal tenant paid to the lord for the privilege of succeeding to the estate.
  10. Literature.
    1. a distinct or abrupt change in mood, scene, action, etc., resulting in a reduction of intensity, as in a play or novel.
    2. comic relief.
  1. on relief, receiving financial assistance from a municipal, state, or federal government because of poverty or need.

Origin of relief

1300–50; Middle English relef < Old French relief, derivative of relever to raise; see relieve
Related formsre·lief·less, adjective

Synonyms for relief

See more synonyms for on

Antonyms for relief


  1. prominence, distinctness, or vividness due to contrast.
  2. the projection of a figure or part from the ground or plane on which it is formed, as in sculpture or similar work.
  3. a piece or work in such projection.
  4. an apparent projection of parts in a painting, drawing, etc., giving the appearance of the third dimension.
  5. Physical Geography. the differences in elevation and slope between the higher and lower parts of the land surface of a given area.
  6. Also called relief printing. Printing. any printing process, as letterpress or flexography, in which the printing ink is transferred to paper or another printed surface from areas that are higher than the rest of the block.

Origin of relief

1600–10; < French relief and Italian rilievo; see relief1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for relief

Contemporary Examples of relief

Historical Examples of relief

  • But to his relief he observed no change in the demeanor of his fellow-townsmen.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • For our relief I tied up the horses for some time before letting them go.

  • He hailed it as a present relief, though he supposed he should have to repay it some time.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Nor could he find any relief of mind in talking with others about her.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • And Jud, shouting with delight and relief, threw his arms around the neck of the horse.

British Dictionary definitions for relief


  1. a feeling of cheerfulness or optimism that follows the removal of anxiety, pain, or distressI breathed a sigh of relief
  2. deliverance from or alleviation of anxiety, pain, distress, etc
    1. help or assistance, as to the poor, needy, or distressed
    2. (as modifier)relief work
  3. short for tax relief
  4. something that affords a diversion from monotony
  5. a person who replaces or relieves another at some task or duty
  6. a bus, shuttle plane, etc, that carries additional passengers when a scheduled service is full
  7. a road (relief road) carrying traffic round an urban area; bypass
    1. the act of freeing a beleaguered town, fortress, etcthe relief of Mafeking
    2. (as modifier)a relief column
  8. Also called: relievo, rilievo sculpture architect
    1. the projection of forms or figures from a flat ground, so that they are partly or wholly free of it
    2. a piece of work of this kind
  9. a printing process, such as engraving, letterpress, etc, that employs raised surfaces from which ink is transferred to the paper
  10. any vivid effect resulting from contrastcomic relief
  11. variation in altitude in an area; difference between highest and lowest levela region of low relief
  12. mechanical engineering the removal of the surface material of a bearing area to allow the access of lubricating fluid
  13. law redress of a grievance or hardshipto seek relief through the courts
  14. European history a succession of payments made by an heir to a fief to his lord: the size of the relief was determined by the lord within bounds set by custom
  15. on relief US and Canadian (of a person) in receipt of government aid because of personal need

Word Origin for relief

C14: from Old French, from relever to raise up; see relieve
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 relief

late 14c., "alleviation of distress, hunger, sickness, etc; state of being relieved; that which mitigates or removes" (pain, grief, evil, etc.)," from Anglo-French relif, from Old French relief "assistance," literally "a raising, that which is lifted," from stressed stem of relever (see relieve). Meaning "aid to impoverished persons" is attested from c.1400; that of "deliverance of a besieged town" is from c.1400. Earlier in English as "that which is left over or left behind," also "feudal payment to an overlord made by an heir upon taking possession of an estate" (both c.1200).


"projection of figure or design from a flat surface," c.1600, from French relief, from Italian rilievo, from rilevare "to raise," from Latin relevare "to raise, lighten" (see relieve).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper