Definition of relax in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /rɪˈlaks/


1Make or become less tense or anxious: [no object]: he relaxed and smiled confidently (as adjective relaxing) a relaxing holiday
More example sentences
  • She smiled at me, friendly, and I relaxed - then tensed slightly, because the door was closing behind me.
  • Whereas she's relatively calm and relaxed, he's tense and anxious.
  • After a couple minutes, her tense body relaxed and she wiggled in the stretcher to get more comfortable.
1.1 [no object] Rest from work or engage in an enjoyable activity so as to become less tired or anxious: the team relax with a lot of skiing
More example sentences
  • When complete, you'll want to kick back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the summer.
  • A real chill place to relax and enjoy the lounge music mixes or a nice warmer before the trendy nightlife.
  • Instead, take a walk or a quick jog, lift weights, take a hot shower to relax or do any activity you enjoy that will keep your mind off smokeless tobacco.
unwind, loosen up, ease up/off, let up, slow down, de-stress, unbend, rest, repose, put one's feet up, take it easy, take time off, take time out, slack off, be at leisure, take one's leisure, take one's ease, laze, luxuriate, do nothing, sit back, lounge, loll, slump, flop, idle, loaf, enjoy oneself, amuse oneself, play, entertain oneself
informal let it all hang out, let one's hair down, unbutton, veg out
North American informal hang loose, stay loose, chill out, kick back
calm, calm down, unwind, loosen up, make less tense/uptight, quieten, tranquillize, soothe, pacify, compose
1.2 [with object] Cause (a limb or muscle) to become less rigid: relax the leg by bringing the knee towards the chest
More example sentences
  • When you have a leg cramp, relax the muscle through gentle massage, or heat the muscle with a warm towel or hot water bottle.
  • Chelsea frowns, but quickly relaxes her eyebrow muscles - not wanting to crack the clear facial mask.
  • Many things may cause a child to be unable to relax their sphincter muscles when trying to urinate.
loosen, loose, slacken, unclench, weaken, lessen, let up, reduce, diminish
1.3 [with object] Make (something) less firm or tight: Cicely relaxed her hold
More example sentences
  • He clenched the wheel tighter, then relaxed his grip, thinking that maybe, just maybe Ellie would catch on.
  • She was not aware of her own tight stance and did not bother to relax it.
  • But my finger was tight on the trigger, and it hurt as I relaxed it.
1.4 [with object] Straighten or partially uncurl (hair) using a chemical product.
Example sentences
  • Do your homework completely before you decide to have your hair chemically straightened or relaxed.
  • Also, hair that is relaxed, straightened, or permanently dyed is more porous than natural hair.
  • Would you also tell black people they cannot relax their hair?
2 [with object] Make (a rule or restriction) less strict: the ministry relaxed some of the restrictions
More example sentences
  • So this Saturday restrictions are being relaxed to Level 2.
  • Some restrictions may be relaxed soon, he says - but it won't be much.
  • Not only do attitudes need to change, but the regulatory restrictions could be considerably relaxed.
moderate, modify, temper, make less strict/formal, ease, ease up on, loosen, lessen, lighten, slacken;
alleviate, mitigate, qualify, dilute, weaken, reduce, diminish, decrease
informal let up on



Pronunciation: /rɪˈlaksə/
Example sentences
  • That's a muscle relaxer that can paralyze and kill in high doses.
  • Abusing hair with multiple processes, such as improperly or too frequently applied hair relaxers, coupled with excessive heat from hair dryers, hot rollers, and curling or flat irons can lead to breakage.
  • While today's at-home relaxers make it easier than ever to play it straight, experts agree that you should take some precautions to avoid overprocessing your hair.


Late Middle English: from Latin relaxare, from re- (expressing intensive force) + laxus 'lax, loose'.

  • languish from Middle English:

    Early senses included ‘become faint, feeble, or ill’; in the early 18th century it came to mean ‘assume a languid or sentimentally tender expression’ and was aptly applied to Sheridan's character Lydia Languish in The Rivals performed for the first time in 1775. The word goes back to Latin laxus ‘loose, lax’ found also in lax (Late Middle English), relax (Late Middle English) where the re- intensifies the sense; relay (Late Middle English), release (Middle English), and laxative (Late Middle English) something that loosens the bowels. See slake

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: relax

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.

Related Words