Definition of relieve in English:



  • 1Cause (pain, distress, or difficulty) to become less severe or serious.

    ‘the drug was used to promote sleep and to relieve pain’
    • ‘Sadly, however, it will do nothing to relieve their distress.’
    • ‘Frequent baths, using colloidal oatmeal, also relieve symptoms.’
    • ‘Others find that simple antacids relieve their discomfort.’
    • ‘Does he have a solution for relieving the congestion on these already clogged roads?’
    • ‘I find that it relaxes my mind, helps me sleep and relieves stress.’
    • ‘He said it would greatly relieve traffic congestion and should be part of the town development plan.’
    • ‘Or will it relieve the pressure on parents who drive to school every day?’
    • ‘Antibiotics and painkillers can temporarily relieve symptoms such as swelling and pain but they are not long-term solutions.’
    • ‘Because physical exercise also relieves stress, your daily workout can help keep you healthy toe to head.’
    • ‘Oatmeal baths, available at the supermarket or pharmacy, can help to relieve itching.’
    • ‘For years he had been taking them once a week, as a way of unwinding and relieving the aches and pains from the hard manual labor required by his landscaping business.’
    • ‘But angina is nearly always relieved by rest, while a heart attack is not.’
    • ‘The motivation for prescribing the drugs must be to relieve suffering.’
    • ‘See an orthosurgeon if your pain is not relieved by these simple measures.’
    • ‘Aspirin or acetaminophen can relieve the discomfort associated with cold sores.’
    • ‘He had no history of trauma and the pain was not relieved by rest.’
    • ‘Meantime, relieve the pain by applying a warm, damp cloth to your eyelid 10 minutes, four times a day.’
    • ‘Taken jointly, they prevent the progression of the disease, reduce inflammation, and relieve mild to severe pain.’
    • ‘A teaspoon of oil added to a hot bath will also help to relieve muscular aches and pains.’
    • ‘Still another important effect is to soothe the lining of the bladder and greatly relieve pain and irritation.’
    alleviate, mitigate, assuage, allay, soothe, soften, palliate, appease, ease, dull, reduce, lessen, diminish
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    1. 1.1Cause (someone) to stop feeling distressed or anxious.
      ‘he was relieved by her change of tone’
      • ‘I was relieved, even as I felt irked with myself for feeling that relief.’
      • ‘We were relieved when Ollie's fell off on Day 8, leaving his cute-as-a-button navel for us to admire.’
      • ‘And I was actually relieved when he left because that kind of ended it for me.’
      • ‘The process probably required only two minutes, and I was relieved when the signal finally came to shut down.’
      • ‘School was uneventful as usual; he was relieved when the bus stopped at the bus stop near his house.’
      • ‘Although her children are relieved when she wakes up, the doctor tells them that any sudden shock could provoke another heart attack.’
      • ‘All the tension that had built up was released, and she was relieved.’
      • ‘He was relieved when she finally broke the silence between them.’
      • ‘She was relieved, therefore, when the blue-eyed face broke out in a grin.’
      • ‘They walked deeper and deeper into the cemetery and finally, Al stopped and she was relieved.’
      • ‘He held up a hand to stop her ramblings, and Jane was instantly relieved.’
      • ‘As I finally reach the top of the climb I'm momentarily relieved.’
      • ‘No one was too badly hurt (save those who had already died); he was relieved at that.’
      • ‘It was a great deal lighter, and he was oddly relieved by that.’
      • ‘I was relieved when her rattling breath filled the sudden quiet.’
      • ‘When he finally resigned his post, a move that was several months too late in my opinion, I was relieved.’
      • ‘She was relieved when he finally stopped the bike in front of Casey's.’
      • ‘It relieved him to see a smile finally break through the boy's complacent state as he returned the greeting.’
      • ‘Patrick was relieved when he heard the last bell ring, signaling the end of the hectic school day.’
      • ‘She was relieved only when they all broke out into smiles.’
  • 2Release (someone) from duty by taking their place.

    ‘another signalman relieved him at 5.30’
    • ‘For example, a temporary hand-off occurs when a perioperative staff member is relieved for break or lunch or leaves the unit for a short time.’
    • ‘I slept in the bush with the soldiers… Finally a fresh battalion relieved our position.’
    • ‘Litus had waited for a long time, waiting for one of the two to return, to relieve him from his watchful duties.’
    • ‘After having Otis relieve him for his 20-minute lunch break he went outside to find Mia waiting for him.’
    • ‘Every so often a trooper would don armour and cloak to go and relieve a guard on duty outside.’
    • ‘You're not relieved from duty until someone comes.’
    • ‘Finally she drifted off to sleep, just as they left their tent to go and relieve Tom and Jay from their duty.’
    replace, take over from, take the place of, stand in for, act as stand-in for, fill in for, substitute for, act as a substitute for, deputize for, be a proxy for, cover for, provide cover for, act as locum for, hold the fort for, do something in someone's place, do something in someone's stead
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    1. 2.1Bring military support for (a besieged place)
      ‘he dispatched an expedition to relieve the city’
      • ‘The Red Army and navy attempted to relieve the city with a huge amphibious assault, the Kerch-Feodosiya operation, on 25 December.’
      • ‘His last hope of shoring up his flagging position was to relieve Richard's great fortress of Château-Gaillard, the key to Normandy, which Philip was besieging.’
  • 3Take (a burden) from someone.

    ‘he relieved her of her baggage’
    • ‘Neil rushed to her side and relieved her of her burdens.’
    • ‘The Italian greets me with great courtliness: first relieving me of my burdens, then bowing gracefully, his lips remaining just a hair's breadth above my extended hand.’
    • ‘Let me relieve you of that abominable burden and let you lie down.’
    • ‘Her tone had changed considerably which made him feel like he had been relieved of a great burden from his shoulders.’
    • ‘After a moment, Henry tapped the man on his epaulet-clad shoulder and relieved him of his beautiful burden.’
    free from, free of, set free from, release from, liberate from, exempt from, excuse from, absolve from, let off, extricate from, discharge from, unburden of, disburden of, disencumber of
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    1. 3.1Free someone from (a tiresome responsibility)
      ‘she relieved me of the household chores’
      • ‘It offered him a job swap and relieved him of most of the responsibility for running the cleaning services.’
      • ‘Well, thanks to technology, today postmen have been relieved of these duties.’
      • ‘It's understandable that you have such faith in destiny, because that relieves you of any responsibility for searching for a good mate and actually testing how attractive you are inside and out.’
      • ‘Accordingly, the defendants submit they should be relieved of their interest obligation during this period.’
      • ‘More and more people subconsciously know that they are sick and tired of their jobs and of their leisure passivities, but they want to hear the lie that physical illness relieves them of social and political responsibilities.’
      • ‘Foreign peacekeepers could relieve U.S. forces of such static and technologically simple duties as guarding fixed facilities.’
      • ‘Some preachers feel that, in using the lectionary as a source for preaching texts, we are relieved of the responsibility to pick and to choose our texts.’
      • ‘That fact does not relieve us of the responsibility to try.’
      • ‘It made life easier for me for a bit, relieved me of some responsibility.’
      • ‘He was relieved of his drug dealing duties, and was told that he'd be updated on gang activity, but wouldn't be required to participate.’
      • ‘Faith does not, therefore, relieve us of our interpretive responsibilities.’
      • ‘He believes this would save the clubs a total of £3m as they would be relieved of the responsibility of paying their key players.’
      • ‘This innocuous-sounding stock phrase impliedly relieves the driver of responsibility for causing the resulting death and destruction.’
      • ‘And for the most of the past half century, Western Europe has been relieved of its defense responsibility by the United States, so there is a lack of maturity that exist within the defense and intelligentsia of these countries.’
      • ‘When he went to court asking to be relieved of the child support payments that consumed a third of his take-home pay, he was turned down.’
      • ‘They would also be relieved of that very uncomfortable obligation of investigating their colleagues.’
      • ‘In addition to relieving American and foreign forces of those duties, the handover of such tasks will be an important step toward ensuring that Iraqis take responsibility for their own security and the future of the nation.’
      • ‘And since this relieved me of all responsibility or need for political involvement there was no reason for me to work out my political position.’
      • ‘Having more money than you've ever had should not relieve you of your responsibilities to protect your credit record.’
      • ‘He would be relieved of all secretarial and routine administrative duties.’
      replace, take over from, take the place of, stand in for, act as stand-in for, fill in for, substitute for, act as a substitute for, deputize for, be a proxy for, cover for, provide cover for, act as locum for, hold the fort for, do something in someone's place, do something in someone's stead
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    2. 3.2Used ironically to indicate that someone has been deprived of something.
      ‘he was relieved of his world title’
      • ‘He was temporarily relieved of duties in 1838 and resigned in protest.’
      • ‘Now, the Minister is relieved of a duty by certain provisions in the Act, is he not?’
      • ‘She reasoned it would be best to keep her position until rightfully relieved from duty, and rubbed her weary eyes.’
      • ‘A previous minister got relieved of his duties in 1996 for that kind of overspending.’
      • ‘Bryan had expected to be relieved of duty the second the detectives had heard the witness's statement.’
      • ‘When a member of the Central Elections Committee protested publicly against this fraud, the President relieved him from his duties.’
      • ‘Has anyone ever heard him publicly criticise a player and ask for him to be relieved of his position in the team?’
      • ‘Charles eventually relieved Rupert of all responsibilities and ordered him into exile.’
      • ‘Nothing too frightening happened, except for the fact that he was relieved of fifty euro by two large gentlemen.’
      • ‘Young men have been relieved of all responsibility - in the name of female emancipation.’
      • ‘He found he could spare time, and relieved me of my cash.’
      • ‘So the Colonel shot back, 'Well, you are relieved of your command.'’
      • ‘The system's flexibility came from its willingness to promote, as well as its willingness to relieve an officer of duty, if necessary.’
      • ‘She also had no information as to whether the constable has been relieved of his duties pending the completion of the investigation.’
      swindle out of, cheat out of, trick out of, prevent from having, prevent from gaining, deprive of, dispossess of, rob of, strip of, relieve of
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  • 4Make less tedious or monotonous by the introduction of variety.

    ‘the bird's body is black, relieved only by white under the tail’
    • ‘Placed in a wilderness of dark mountains, the scene is relieved by a flood of glaring light that holds the figures in a tableau of awful impact.’
    • ‘Their melodies echoed in our little wooden house, relieving the afternoon greyness.’
    • ‘She glanced round the shadowy room, noting the matching curtains and bed cover that attempted to relieve the gloom.’
    • ‘I do not believe that the inspector was saying that: he merely noted, quite accurately, that the urban features did in fact relieve the landscape.’
    • ‘Yet, the beams prove futile in relieving the oppressing darkness.’
    • ‘Shabby suburban streets are suddenly relieved by an almost strident red building, crisply detailed and well tended.’
    • ‘Lack of open space to relieve hard-packed pavement and gap-toothed Main Streets drained by malls and sprawl sap the life from downtown.’
    counteract, reduce, alleviate, mitigate, brighten, lighten, sweeten, bring respite to, make something bearable
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  • 5Used as a formal or euphemistic expression for urination or defecation.

    ‘train your dog to relieve itself where you want it to’
    • ‘While visiting the volcano, people are advised not to do things that could anger the spirits, such as relieving oneself wherever one might wish.’
    • ‘He said he and his partner had a five-months old baby to look after and the cat was ignoring the litter trays and relieving itself in the house.’
    • ‘I relieved myself in the conveniences behind the pavilion.’
    • ‘We're far too polite to speculate how swimmers who felt the urge went about relieving themselves.’
    • ‘He even drank some of the water and relieved himself where I had told him to.’
    • ‘They saw people bathing, relieving themselves and washing their clothes in the same waters used by sickly, flea-infested donkeys, pigs, cows and goats.’
    • ‘The scream of the young Turkish girl who caught sight of me relieving myself in a strategically placed potted fig must have woken most of the hotel's inhabitants.’
    • ‘Basingstoke could become the latest town to install urinals that rise from the pavement in a bid to tackle the problem of late-night revellers relieving themselves in shop doorways.’
    • ‘A plea for more toilets in Twickenham town centre on rugby days has been made by residents who are tired of people relieving themselves in the open air.’
    • ‘The women also claimed that children had been relieving themselves in the park, vandalising fences and throwing eggs at people's doors.’
    • ‘A bush in the shape of a urinal, said to be the perfect answer to the problem of people relieving themselves in the street, was an eye-catching addition.’
    • ‘As TV audiences fragment, advertisers are constantly looking for new ways of reaching us - whether we're relieving ourselves or ordering a tuna melt.’
    • ‘Did you know that a bird relieved itself on me twice this past week?’
    • ‘My assumption is that because contractors and tradesmen are generally regarded to be second-class, there is no thought or concern given to the dignity most other people take for granted in relieving themselves.’
    • ‘I drank liters of water and then had to relieve myself - a new problem.’
    • ‘We frequently see them relieving themselves against the trees.’
    • ‘Do we want to become a jungle with people relieving themselves on the street?’
    • ‘I should point out that as I observed this male exited the block, I was in the process of relieving myself.’
    • ‘The streets of our town and cities are awash with drunks who readily turn violent - that's if they are not busy vomiting all over the place or relieving themselves in shop doorways.’
    • ‘They staggered up the road and when clear of the town they both needed to relieve themselves and stood in the middle of the road urinating into the dust.’
    pass water, go to the loo, go to the toilet, go to the lavatory, relieve oneself
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  • 6archaic Make (something) stand out.

    ‘the twilight relieving in purple masses the foliage of the island’


Middle English: from Old French relever, from Latin relevare, from re- (expressing intensive force) + levare raise (from levis light).