Definition of relief in English:



  • 1A feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.

    ‘much to her relief, she saw the door open’
    • ‘At once, with mixed relief and anxiety, she realized that they were alone.’
    • ‘I entwined my fingers with hers, experiencing relief and dissolved anxiety as I felt her squeeze back.’
    • ‘Turning away I closed my eyes and released a sigh of relief.’
    • ‘Though she felt like releasing a sigh of relief, for an unknown reason the happiness refused to come.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His smile was one of relief and he relaxed again slightly, drawing her close for one last squeeze of a hug before asking.’
    • ‘What followed was a frenzy of joy, relief and unfiltered emotion.’
    • ‘I start towards the other table with a strange mixture of relief and anxiety.’
    • ‘It was with a feeling of relaxation and relief that every one heard the clocks strike the hour for the close of the poll.’
    • ‘Releasing a breath of relief, Rachel absently accepted Lucy's urge to move forward.’
    • ‘A rush of relief washed over him as Lukas' voice answered the inquiry.’
    • ‘A few minutes later, Vicki heard the ‘ding’ of the front door and released a breath of relief.’
    • ‘The mix of emotions on his face was so varied between anxiety, worry and relief, when he saw me breathing again.’
    • ‘Evelyn cried out with relief, but her reassured expression soon changed drastically in a look of pure fury.’
    • ‘They both sighed with relief, and released each other.’
    • ‘I almost screamed into the phone out of excitement, relief, anticipation, anxiety, and every other unsure feeling.’
    • ‘I felt a sense of relief, reassuring myself that that girl wouldn't be me.’
    • ‘Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that Father Christmas did turn up that night and there was much joy the following morning - joy mixed with relief.’
    • ‘Thomas was watching her with relief so palpable that she ached in sympathy.’
    reassurance, consolation, comfort, solace, calmness, relaxation, repose, ease
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[count noun]A cause of or occasion for relief.
      ‘it was a relief to find somewhere to stay’
      • ‘You said that one of the great reliefs of doing Ibsen is that you have some really great dialogue to work with for a change.’
      • ‘It is also a relief to see him in a role that buries his floppy-haired, bumbling nice guy image.’
      • ‘But the paltry amount of snow here is a relief compared to the four-foot snowfalls we'd receive at least five times a year in Montreal.’
      • ‘It is also a great relief to finish with the life-belts & hammocks.’
      • ‘The movie's brevity (it's only two hours long) thus comes as a relief.’
      • ‘The absence of scholarly essays, on the other hand, is a relief.’
      • ‘The dance events were a big relief to the stressed.’
      • ‘And when we do get the odd shower, what a welcome relief!’
      • ‘And what a relief it must have been to stand over simmering pots of chutney in the winter instead of the heat of a summer's day.’
      • ‘‘What a relief,’ he agreed, relaxing in a sweater and slacks in the smaller, more intimately lit restaurant.’
      • ‘Personally, the silly, contrived plot comes as a welcome relief.’
      • ‘There's nothing like speaking out about the things you dread most, for it's a relief to unburden yourself of your worst worries and nagging fears.’
      • ‘For now, it's a relief to see that she is not included in Forbes magazine's recent list of the world's 100 most powerful women.’
      • ‘After a walk of eight kilometres, it's quite a relief.’
      • ‘With the autumn sun smiling and rain providing an occasional relief, the season has set in with a vibrant and colourful note.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘What a relief - that's enough to get anyone started!’
      • ‘It looked just like the last two times that they had visited, which was a relief, considering the present circumstances.’
      • ‘At least the chair is comfortable - a relief, since she's been sitting there for over an hour.’
      • ‘The vastness of the sea and the expanse of the beach seems to be a welcome relief for many who spend a better part of their lives cooped up inside offices, flats and apartments.’
    2. 1.2The alleviation of pain, discomfort, or distress.
      ‘tablets for the relief of pain’
      • ‘While you wait for your body to mend, pain medication provides relief.’
      • ‘Nitrates often are used in emergency treatment of acute chest pain, but relief with nitrates is an uncertain diagnostic and prognostic sign.’
      • ‘On emergence from anesthesia, nearly all patients experience immediate pain relief and mild sensory loss.’
      • ‘To get relief from soaring summer temperatures, children head to the beach or local pool.’
      • ‘The majority of patients undergoing this procedure experience immediate pain relief.’
      • ‘While you're waiting for your tendon to heal, you can find immediate relief from the discomfort by icing the painful area.’
      • ‘When other therapies fail to provide relief from the pain of a damaged hip, hip replacement may be the answer.’
      • ‘She had been unable to obtain relief from over-the-counter medications, because she could not swallow pills.’
      • ‘And for some of you, relief from this sometimes paralyzing disorder could be within sight.’
      • ‘This is a drug that may be given by injection to treat cluster headache, and usually gives fast relief from acute attacks.’
      • ‘This regimen usually continues until the patient experiences relief from symptoms.’
      • ‘As a result, they feel they need relief and reassurance more than ever.’
      • ‘A high percent of respondents had some, little or no relief from a number of herbal products that have been shown in medical studies to be helpful.’
      • ‘Is there a treatment that can bring relief from the pain and muscle stiffness?’
      • ‘These creams can lubricate the area and some contain a local anaesthetic to provide short term relief from any discomfort.’
      • ‘That gave me a slight relief but it quickly subsided when she sat down next to Travis again.’
      • ‘Thus, the clinician's goal is to promote relief from pain and promote functional recovery.’
      • ‘The Captain continuing to massage her tensed muscles and relaxation once again gave relief to the few lingering spasms.’
      • ‘In severe cases, antidepressants may provide greater symptomatic relief.’
      • ‘But he also feels that an end would provide relief from the pain of his loneliness.’
      alleviation, alleviating, relieving, mitigation, mitigating, assuagement, assuaging, palliation, allaying, appeasement, soothing, easing, dulling, lessening, reduction, abatement
      freedom, release, liberation, deliverance, exemption, discharge
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3Something interesting or enjoyable that provides a short respite from a tense or tedious situation.
      ‘the kiss-and-tell tale gave the nation some light relief from page after page of war coverage’
      • ‘The only light relief is the story of a narrow escape from death.’
      • ‘True, Dwarves provided comic relief in The Hobbit but that was originally written as a children's book and not as a 'serious' work.’
      • ‘Many expect audience banter to be a bit of light relief from more scripted material.’
      • ‘His deliberately two-dimensional characters are hilariously drawn to provide some much needed light relief to such an obviously calamitous tale.’
      • ‘I could do with some light relief and Owen and his friends looked like they could probably provide it.’
      • ‘Every now and then it all seemed slightly amusing, as if offering a kind of light relief beside the real horrors of war.’
      • ‘At first it seems like light relief, but then you realise his mother is an integral part of the story.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, it enjoyed four successful series, providing a rich seam of satire and some much-needed light relief during a particularly unsettled period of Britain's recent past.’
      • ‘This is, after all, a film which takes the business of war and genocide as its central themes, but which manages to punctuate events with some much-needed light relief.’
      • ‘Indeed, the political circus may well provide light relief to an otherwise thoroughly depressing scenario.’
      • ‘The sexist behaviour of city analysts and senior managers is certainly deplorable; however the world of trade is a pressurised one, and everyone is in need of some light relief.’
      • ‘Fortunately, the programme does provide light relief.’
      • ‘China and Canada provided drama today and a contingent of National Football League players provided comic relief on the final day of racing at the 13th annual Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Festival.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, this couple provided us with the much-needed comic relief.’
      • ‘If you're doing a drama that has some comedic elements you can't forget that it's primarily a very serious film that has some light relief.’
      • ‘Only really Collins seems to inject the fun needed to bring about some light relief from the more serious stuff between Shylock and Antonio.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘After all the upheaval I've had, even a confrontation with an insensitive neighbour of many years would come as light relief!’
      • ‘But then, it's only days away from Munster's biggest game of the year and a little light relief always helps to divert attention.’
      • ‘This one did seem much darker even than before - a bit of light relief would have been good.’
      respite, remission, lightening, brightening
      View synonyms
  • 2Financial or practical assistance given to those in special need or difficulty.

    ‘raising money for famine relief’
    [as modifier] ‘relief workers’
    • ‘The focus now is completely on getting relief and assistance into these devastated areas.’
    • ‘Their businesses offer services to companies seeking or holding federal contracts in the hurricane relief operation.’
    • ‘Relief agencies offer public information about disasters and how to prepare for them.’
    • ‘The need for relief supplies may not have been as urgent this time around.’
    • ‘And he wants to use the occasion to urge people to keep contributing to tsunami disaster relief.’
    • ‘At relief camps, the water and food is being provided by private organisations.’
    • ‘No sooner had I requested a little charcoal, when immediately a full scale famine relief effort was in effect.’
    • ‘But the same needs for relief supplies, evacuation and emergency services would exist.’
    • ‘Remember, nobody could come in with relief supplies because it was too dangerous.’
    • ‘It has assisted with disaster relief in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf region.’
    • ‘The following relief is necessary to bring about a cessation of the violence or the threat of violence.’
    • ‘The services help the Corps build dams, waterways, roads and other national infrastructure, as well as assist in disaster relief.’
    • ‘The UN in Somalia had resolved very little, apart from initial famine relief.’
    • ‘How many of these people would have spent a penny over a relief fund?’
    • ‘Firefighters in Bingley are hoping to wash hundreds of vehicles to raise funds to help the tsunami disaster relief effort.’
    • ‘Threats of a ferocious US-led assault on Afghanistan forced relief agencies to pull out.’
    • ‘We go into the most desperate situations to provide medical relief.’
    • ‘I've created an edition of prints to benefit the Tsunami disaster relief efforts.’
    • ‘What could be wrong with an emergency drought relief bill?’
    • ‘Currently Iraqi leaders have been turning down humanitarian efforts and have refused offers of relief from private medical groups.’
    help, aid, assistance, succour, care, sustenance
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1A remission of tax normally due.
      ‘employees who donate to charity will receive tax relief’
      • ‘Self-employed people obtain tax relief on pension contributions through the mechanism of annual tax returns.’
      • ‘In other cases, Revenue was concerned other individuals granted reliefs under section 481 spent budgets abroad or did not even make a proper film.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, tenants will not get double rent relief or rates remission.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Those reliefs were crucial to the viable redevelopment of the Hotel.’
      • ‘They also qualify for mortgage interest relief for investors.’
      • ‘Harbour Point comes with Section 23 tax incentives as well as full mortgage interest relief for investors.’
      • ‘The tax remains overly complex, with reliefs subject to numerous conditions and three different taxes which are inheritance/gift tax, probate tax and discretionary trust tax.’
      • ‘Under provisions of the Finance Act, 2001, their parish could claim back tax relief on those contributions.’
      • ‘Ending tax relief schemes will save the Exchequer hundreds of millions of euro, but the effects won't be seen until 2012 when most reliefs have been claimed.’
      • ‘Section 23 is due to end next year but the Emmet Road scheme allows purchasers to claim relief in the current tax year.’
      • ‘There are alternatives to gold sales which would provide more debt relief in a shorter period of time.’
      • ‘Pension holders can obtain tax relief on contributions of up to 30% of their salary, depending on age.’
      • ‘‘No ceiling has been placed on the degree to which well-placed individuals can reduce their tax contribution to zero through the use of these reliefs,’ he said.’
      • ‘Any excess relief in a tax year may be carried forward for offset against rental income arising from Irish property in future years.’
      • ‘Consequently their entitlement to these reliefs could be reduced.’
      • ‘Yet Malawi is not even one of the 18 countries earmarked for immediate debt relief by the G8.’
      • ‘The houses are exempt from stamp duty for owner occupiers and also benefit from mortgage interest relief for investors.’
      • ‘A new relief for gifts and inheritances of houses was introduced two years ago.’
      • ‘This figure includes your own contributions, any contributions your employer may make and the tax relief you receive from the Inland Revenue.’
    2. 2.2Law The redress of a hardship or grievance.
      • ‘He then concluded that the balance of convenience favours granting the injunctive relief.’
      • ‘Does this court have authority to grant the interlocutory relief sought?’
      • ‘The applicant in this case seeks prerogative relief under section 75 of the Constitution.’
      • ‘The motion now before this court seeks the following relief.’
      • ‘There are some cases where judicial review courts give relief.’
    3. 2.3The action of raising the siege of a besieged town.
      ‘the relief of Mafeking’
      • ‘So, in the summer of 1139, while Zengi was laying siege to Damascus, a Christian army marched to its relief.’
      • ‘They also were significant in limited tactical actions close to the shore such as the prosecution or relief of sieges.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 3[usually as modifier] A person or group of people replacing others who have been on duty.

    [as modifier] ‘the relief nurse was late’
    • ‘Fifteen months later, he takes up a position as a relief teacher in a Los Angeles school where gangs rule and education is resisted by most students.’
    • ‘He has no real job and owes his flatmate Ned, who is a relief teacher, over $2000 in back rent.’
    • ‘After some time, a relief dealer came to our table and took over dealing.’
    • ‘In the meantime, your lessons will be taken over by a relief teacher today.’
    • ‘Here comes Stengel out of the dugout, waving for a relief pitcher.’
    • ‘The purpose of the third soldier was to provide an alert assistant to the driver while the relief driver slept in one of the two bunks in the cab.’
    • ‘I saw a relief teacher writing things on the board, and sighed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As it was a dark, moonless night and the Americans were advancing silently, a German relief column was unaware that an American attack was under way.’
    • ‘The former relief pitcher has had mixed success when he staggers his delivery.’
    • ‘Fifteen cohorts were annihilated at Atuatuca, and another garrison commanded by Quintus Cicero only just saved by a relief column.’
    replacement, substitute, deputy, reserve, standby, stopgap, cover, stand-in, supply, fill-in, locum, locum tenens, understudy, proxy, surrogate
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1British An extra vehicle providing supplementary public transport at peak times or in emergencies.
      ‘the coach had broken down and a relief vehicle had taken an hour to arrive’
  • 4The state of being clearly visible or obvious due to being accentuated.

    ‘the setting sun threw the snow-covered peaks into relief’
    • ‘It must be said that some effort is made to compare Frank with his fellow-paramedics, by way of getting his crisis to stand out with greater relief.’
    • ‘Its girly, almost camp, presence effectively throws the testosterone of the action sequences into relief.’
    • ‘Every ruddy pebble on the pounded clay, every blade of yellow barley beyond it, stands out in bold relief before me, vying for my eyes to embrace it and it alone.’
    • ‘Crimson coated her palm and fingers, standing out in stark relief against the pale of her skin.’
    • ‘By presenting the song as high camp drama, the rather silly Satanic image of the Stones is thrown into relief.’
    • ‘I remember what she looked like perfectly: every piece of fur standing out in sharp relief, brushed to a glossy sheen, her breeches green and gold.’
    • ‘Shocked at this, it quickly shifted into relief that he was busy with her therefore couldn't bombard her with fake concern this time.’
    • ‘Two swinging lanterns lit the interior with a yellow-orange cast that made Rebecca stand out in sharp relief like some golden goddess.’
    • ‘To compare it in this respect with the work of any other poet in English throws this peculiarity into relief.’
    • ‘But these cults throw into relief the more usual pattern.’
    • ‘She watched Wolf with pleasure as he chewed, his jaw muscles thrown into relief by the light of the cookfire.’
    • ‘He was pale, his freckles stood out in stark relief against the white backdrop of his cheeks and his reddish hair was aflame.’
    • ‘This respondent throws into relief the transition he has made from one mode to the other.’
    • ‘Yes, the production is big and bright and bouncy, but far from compromising her sound, it throws it into relief.’
    • ‘The girl's face was thrown into relief for the first time, and he glanced down.’
    • ‘Every vein in her body stood out in bright relief against her pale skin.’
    • ‘But it's worth stating the obvious once again because the repetition of what we know can put into relief what we do not.’
    • ‘Knotty or mundane national topics often come into relief through a current reference.’
    • ‘The classical compatibilist held that that the conditional analysis brings into relief a rich picture of freedom.’
    • ‘Muscles stood out in stark relief, mute testimony to her effort.’
    1. 4.1A method of moulding, carving, or stamping in which the design stands out from the surface, to a greater (high relief) or lesser (low relief) extent.
      ‘he cast them in relief from molten metal’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 4.2[count noun]A piece of sculpture in relief.
      • ‘Yet this friezelike arrangement of rhyming bodies and limbs also invokes classical reliefs of ceremonial processions, endowing the painting's blithe subject with an unexpected grandeur.’
      • ‘Stain-glass windows and reliefs on the column close to the altar add beauty to the atmosphere.’
      • ‘From the outside, the concrete walls will feature reliefs of the bamboo found growing nearby.’
      • ‘The very presence of the reliefs testified to Mussolini's power in restoring the past glories of Rome.’
      • ‘The reliefs in the temple tell the story of the queen's divine birth, (even one showing her suckling the goddess Hathor who is always depicted as a cow), her conquests and achievements.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, this popular tale has as much basis as the legends attributing crucifixes and saintly reliefs in various Apuan village churches, and even one Gothic rose window, to the great master.’
      • ‘The artist has no doubt found inspiration in Greco-Roman statuary and reliefs, because figures and forms are as flat as a classical frieze.’
      • ‘One of these reliefs is in the Museum of Fine Arts collection.’
      • ‘For good measure, they defaced some of the pagan reliefs adorning its walls.’
      • ‘Although technically sculptural reliefs, these works speak to a number of painting's traditional formal concerns.’
      • ‘Though the palace and monastery have disappeared and the inside of the church has been gutted, the exterior walls are still in good condition and decorated with recognisable and realistic reliefs.’
      • ‘The empire's satrapies stretched from the Indus to the Aegean, and delicate reliefs on the walls of the Apadana Palace depict Libyans, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Turks and others bearing tributes to Darius.’
      • ‘A recent show of two sculptures and nine wall reliefs invoked Penone's past with some humble, nontraditional materials, yet presented them in decidedly conventional formats.’
      • ‘From a distance, the reliefs may appear to be governed by a strict bilateral symmetry, but closer inspection reveals a more complicated arrangement of planes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Williams took up painting full time only in the 1980s, after years of making sculptural reliefs that presented more generalized, symbolic statements about the human condition.’
      • ‘But even more, these figures recall Greek and Roman architectural reliefs.’
      • ‘Rock reliefs carved by the sculptors of the Assyrian kings mark the terrain across the northern Iraqi countryside.’
      • ‘A sculptural relief on one wall was matched by a smaller negative version inserted into the wall opposite.’
      • ‘Sculpture is generally classified into three major categories: intaglio, reliefs and sculpture in the round.’
    3. 4.3A representation of relief given by an arrangement of line or colour or shading.
    4. 4.4Geography Difference in height from the surrounding terrain.
      ‘the sharp relief of many mountains’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It took one computer artist a full year to paint terrain relief on every plate.’


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