Definition of relative in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈrɛlətɪv/


1Considered in relation or in proportion to something else: the relative effectiveness of the various mechanisms is not known
More example sentences
  • However, relative cost effectiveness is considered the most important criterion.
  • Most plants contain several pigments, whose relative proportions may vary considerably, producing colours which differ noticeably from each other.
  • In much of the early work (and a good deal of the later), the relative proportions of the collaged source material were left largely unchanged.
comparative, respective, comparable, correlative, parallel, corresponding, reciprocal
1.1Existing or possessing a specified characteristic only in comparison to something else; not absolute: she went down the steps into the relative darkness of the dining room the firms are relative newcomers to computers
More example sentences
  • The distinction between absolute and relative gaps becomes important when comparisons are made over time.
  • We computed the absolute and relative risks to evaluate the impact of the time of birth on the risk of infant and early neonatal mortality and early neonatal mortality related to asphyxia.
  • For example, since the supply of natural scenery is fixed it is relative rather than absolute wealth and income that counts.
moderate, reasonable, a fair degree of, considerable, some;
comparative, qualified, modified;
in/by comparison
2 Grammar Denoting a pronoun, determiner, or adverb that refers to an expressed or implied antecedent and attaches a subordinate clause to it, e.g. which, who.
Example sentences
  • The other personal relative pronoun, who, doesn't seem to be affected nearly as much.
  • Secondly, the relative pronoun has an antecedent in the poem, albeit divided from it by a colon.
  • A contrast of personal and non-personal is also found with the relative pronouns who/whom versus which.
2.1(Of a clause) attached to an antecedent by a relative word.
Example sentences
  • In addition, accusative case on who does not typically survive when the word is shunted to the beginning of an interrogative or relative clause.
  • Sentences in which the grammatical role of a noun phrase is the same in the main clause and the relative clause seem to be easier to process.
  • Well, toward the end of the third clause within this tripartite relative clause we find the following sequence of words.
3 Music (Of major and minor keys) having the same key signature.
Example sentences
  • This piece will give the teacher a chance to review parallel and relative major/minor keys along with primary chord progressions.
  • The key of the second group is usually the dominant for movements in the major and the relative major for movements in the minor, though other keys may be used.
  • The premise is that the major key always prevails and all minor keys should be sung in terms of the relative major.
4(Of a service rank) corresponding in grade to another in a different service.
Example sentences
  • The war prompted the navy to assign relative rank to nurses on 1 July 1942.
  • In all of the above cases the question of relative rank was irrelevant to the question of a legal marriage, but both parties did admit a disparity.
  • The change was likely made to avoid confusion over relative rank in NATO forces.


1A person connected by blood or marriage: much of my time is spent visiting relatives
More example sentences
  • The Dutch make a distinction between relatives by marriage and relatives by blood.
  • Bulgarians count as kin relatives by blood and marriage on both the male and female sides.
  • Since coeliac disease runs in families, relatives can have a blood test to check for antibodies.
relation, member of someone's/the family, one's (own) flesh and blood, next of kin
formal kinsman, kinswoman
(relatives) family, kin, kith and kin, kindred
informal folks
formal kinsfolk
dated people
1.1A species related to another by common origin: the plant is a relative of ivy
More example sentences
  • A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that the disease is a mutant relative of the common cold.
  • The Sacramento perch was another native species similar to eastern relatives.
  • It is a larger relative of the common wild plant goat's beard, T. pratensis.
2 Grammar A relative pronoun, determiner, or adverb.
Example sentences
  • In the following pair, the first uses it as an interrogative content clause and the second uses it as a fused relative.
  • An operator (like always) within a relative clause does not like to take wider scope than operators outside the relative.
  • Occurrences of restrictive relative which are all over the place.
3 Philosophy A term or concept which is dependent on something else.
Example sentences
  • This ‘causal maxim’ is a close relative of the Uniformity Principle, if we think, as Hume and Kant both do, that an event's being caused entails its falling under a law.
  • If you find this thought rather alien, remember that to most of Hegel's audience it would have sounded quite familiar; it is a close relative of something they had been brought up to accept.
  • With Augustus de Morgan, Peirce is one of the founders of the logic of relatives.


relative to

1In comparison with: the figures suggest that girls are underachieving relative to boys
More example sentences
  • This property comes about because the visual system makes comparisons relative to the putative axis, implying additional processing.
  • Participating females reported gradual but lasting reductions in their substance use relative to comparison females.
  • In both cases, participant group youth experience a decrease in use relative to comparison youth of the same gender.
proportionate, proportional, in proportion, commensurate, corresponding, dependent on, based on
1.1In terms of a connection to: we must consider the location of the hospital relative to its catchment area
More example sentences
  • The weaponry used also has to be seen in terms relative to the conflict at hand.
  • This should be done in terms of the company's objectives and its positioning relative to the competition.
  • Recipes for gunpowder, relative to the proportions in the mixture of its three components, varied over the centuries of its use.
2About; concerning: if you have any queries relative to payment, please contact us
More example sentences
  • So no, I don't think we have any concerns relative to that.
  • It looks like the concern relative to what we talked about last night with some of Rita coming back down doesn't seem to be particularly likely at this point.
  • In the last few years, theoretical concerns relative to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease caused a similar donor loss.



Pronunciation: /rɛləˈtʌɪv(ə)l/
sense 2 of the noun.
Example sentences
  • The lenition of the relatival form was generalized.
  • Celtic has a relatival form of the verb, a feature which may indicate some non-Indo-European influence.


Late Middle English: from Old French relatif, -ive, from late Latin relativus 'having reference or relation' (see relate).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: rela|tive

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