Definition of relief in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /rəˈlēf/


1A feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress: much to her relief, she saw the door open
More example sentences
  • There were so many feelings in this room: happiness, relief, anxiety, anger and pain.
  • Like a patient leaving the hospital, she stepped out of the house on 11 Bandfield Street and gazed at the street with a blend of relief and anxiety.
  • I almost screamed into the phone out of excitement, relief, anticipation, anxiety, and every other unsure feeling.
reassurance, consolation, comfort, solace
1.1A cause of or occasion for relief: it was a relief to find somewhere to stay
More example sentences
  • With the autumn sun smiling and rain providing an occasional relief, the season has set in with a vibrant and colourful note.
  • It is also a relief to see him in a role that buries his floppy-haired, bumbling nice guy image.
  • It is such a relief to know which side is right, and downright comforting to have a hero in the person of that rookie cop who blew the whistle on the six bad cops.
1.2The alleviation of pain, discomfort, or distress: tablets for the relief of pain
More example sentences
  • When other therapies fail to provide relief from the pain of a damaged hip, hip replacement may be the answer.
  • Thus, the clinician's goal is to promote relief from pain and promote functional recovery.
  • Is there a treatment that can bring relief from the pain and muscle stiffness?
alleviation, alleviating, relieving, assuagement, assuaging, palliation, allaying, soothing, easing, lessening, reduction
freedom, release, liberation, deliverance
1.3A temporary break in a generally tense or tedious situation: the comic characters aren’t part of the plot but just light relief
More example sentences
  • Fortunately, the programme does provide light relief.
  • Indeed, the political circus may well provide light relief to an otherwise thoroughly depressing scenario.
  • The first act then proceeds with the usual light relief provided by Wolfgang (the tutor) trying to prove that he can still cut a step or two with a younger woman.
respite, amusement, diversion, entertainment, jollity, jollification, recreation
2Assistance, especially in the form of food, clothing, or money, given to those in special need or difficulty: raising money for famine relief [as modifier]: relief workers
More example sentences
  • The focus now is completely on getting relief and assistance into these devastated areas.
  • It has assisted with disaster relief in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf region.
  • The services help the Corps build dams, waterways, roads and other national infrastructure, as well as assist in disaster relief.
help, aid, assistance, succor, sustenance, TLC;
charity, gifts, donations
2.1A remission of tax normally due: people who donate money to charity will receive tax relief
More example sentences
  • This figure includes your own contributions, any contributions your employer may make and the tax relief you receive from the Inland Revenue.
  • Special cases for years, suddenly farmers were being hit by measures common to all taxpayers, such as the ending of the roll-over relief on capital gains tax.
  • Any excess relief in a tax year may be carried forward for offset against rental income arising from Irish property in future years.
2.2chiefly Law The redress of a hardship or grievance.
Example sentences
  • There are some cases where judicial review courts give relief.
  • The applicant in this case seeks prerogative relief under section 75 of the Constitution.
  • Does this court have authority to grant the interlocutory relief sought?
2.3The action of raising the siege of a besieged town: the relief of Mafeking
More example sentences
  • They also were significant in limited tactical actions close to the shore such as the prosecution or relief of sieges.
  • So, in the summer of 1139, while Zengi was laying siege to Damascus, a Christian army marched to its relief.
  • In 1646, on the anniversary of the relief of Taunton from siege, George Newton, the minister, looked around him and described it in a sermon.
3A person or group of people replacing others who have been on duty: [as modifier]: the relief nurse was late
More example sentences
  • The first day I worked in the OR, a relief nurse came to give me a break, and I began to look forward to the morning socialization and a cup of coffee.
  • Once we had this physics lesson with a relief teacher because our normal teacher was off sick and Andy pretended to be deaf.
  • The question remains whether the carnage that was wrought from the air and by the relief columns was strictly necessary.
replacement, substitute, deputy, reserve, cover, stand-in, supply, locum, locum tenens, understudy
3.1 Baseball The role of a relief pitcher.
4The state of being clearly visible or obvious due to being accentuated in some way: the setting sun threw the snow-covered peaks into relief
More example sentences
  • Shocked at this, it quickly shifted into relief that he was busy with her therefore couldn't bombard her with fake concern this time.
  • But these cults throw into relief the more usual pattern.
  • This respondent throws into relief the transition he has made from one mode to the other.
4.1A method of molding, carving, or stamping in which the design stands out from the surface, to a greater ( high relief) or lesser ( bas-relief) extent.
Example sentences
  • Intaglio is a type of incised relief in which the design does not project from the surface; rather it is cut into it, sinking below the surface.
  • Previous Pharaohs had followed the rule that, in temple design, incised relief was used on the exterior walls, where it could cast strong shadows.
  • Later, it became more complex: cutting, putting blocks together, printing with relief and with intaglio blocks.
4.2A piece of sculpture in relief.
Example sentences
  • Sculpture is generally classified into three major categories: intaglio, reliefs and sculpture in the round.
  • The arch was inset with sculptural reliefs depicting the campaigns of the French armies in Italy, while in front and behind it there stood figures of Liberty and Triumph on circular podia.
  • Although technically sculptural reliefs, these works speak to a number of painting's traditional formal concerns.
4.3A representation of relief given by an arrangement of line or color or shading.
4.4 Geography Difference in height from the surrounding terrain; the amount of variation in elevation and slope in a particular area.
Via French from Italian rilievo, from rilevare 'raise', from Latin relevare
Example sentences
  • It took one computer artist a full year to paint terrain relief on every plate.
  • Furthermore, in choosing the forward edge, it is important to take into account terrain relief, the type of soil, and the depth of the snow cover.



in relief

1 Art Carved, molded, or stamped so as to stand out from the surface.
2 Baseball Acting as a replacement pitcher.
Example sentences
  • Nicole Ronald then came on in relief in the third inning and silenced the Western bats for the remainder of the affair.
  • Dave Cornelius came in relief for McNabb and held the Badgers to just one hit in the remaining three innings.
  • The second year pivot came on in relief and had his share of struggles.

on relief

chiefly North American Receiving government assistance because of need.
Example sentences
  • In the 1930s, working-class people, many on relief, flocked to movies where Park Avenue swells wined and dined in style.
  • Organisers on relief risked having their benefits taken away, but still they persevered.


Late Middle English: from Old French, from relever 'raise up, relieve', from Latin relevare 'raise again, alleviate'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: re·lief

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.