Definition of relative in English:



  • 1Considered in relation or in proportion to something else.

    ‘the relative effectiveness of the various mechanisms is not known’
    • ‘As a first step in cost-effectiveness analyses, there must be evidence regarding the relative effectiveness of the treatment options being considered.’
    • ‘There were issues around the relative effectiveness of parliamentary agitation and the morality of open rebellion, if it were almost certainly doomed to failure.’
    • ‘The last 20 years have seen a change in the relative efficiency and effectiveness of multilateral and bilateral aid.’
    • ‘No mention was made as to the relative proportion of male versus female students at the two universities.’
    • ‘These proportions are relative only to one another and do not in any way represent the whole plant diet.’
    • ‘However for the sake of representing gender in the society it might have been fruitful to state at the outset of the book more about the relative proportions of female cases out of all trials.’
    • ‘One recipe gave relative proportions of grape juice, apple juice, cider vinegar and Certo.’
    • ‘There, the estimated drop in the relative proportion of high sensation seekers using marijuana was 26.7 percent.’
    • ‘However, relative cost effectiveness is considered the most important criterion.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, the relative proportions of each mineral in the ore and airborne dust are not known.’
    • ‘Of the two the Byzantine was nearer to the classical tradition, for it broadly recognized the articulation of the limbs and their relative proportions in nature.’
    • ‘With this procedure, we assume that the relative proportions of the trunk and legs are the same in males and females.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Finally, decide on the relative proportion each Web page element has to the overall page.’
    • ‘This caused us to examine the relative proportions of myosin and actin.’
    • ‘It is therefore an unfortunate fact that little research has been done into the relative cost - effectiveness of psychological treatments.’
    • ‘The driving force causing these alterations seems to be the increase in relative proportion of type III collagen.’
    • ‘Many complementary and alternative therapies are perceived to be safe and are used by many pregnant women, but little is known about their relative effectiveness.’
    • ‘To identify effective interventions and their relative effectiveness in preventing such falls, we conducted a meta-analysis of relevant randomised controlled trials.’
    comparative, respective, comparable, correlative, parallel, corresponding, reciprocal
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    1. 1.1 Existing 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 companies are relative newcomers to computers’
      • ‘Safety and risk are always relative, never absolute.’
      • ‘The upsurge in art prices in the last thirty years has changed both absolute and relative valuations, and may also have changed career age/value profiles.’
      • ‘Of course, that's in relative risk, not absolute risk.’
      • ‘The distinction between absolute and relative gaps becomes important when comparisons are made over time.’
      • ‘Competitive advantage may more often be relative rather than absolute.’
      • ‘For example, since the supply of natural scenery is fixed it is relative rather than absolute wealth and income that counts.’
      • ‘With its generous proportions and relative distance from the main accommodation, this area lends itself for use as a home office or teenager's den.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Whenever possible, use absolute numbers - not relative risks.’
      • ‘Young mothers struggle alone to bring up a growing proportion of children in relative poverty and more and more old people live out their days in uncared-for solitude.’
      • ‘These boutique funds tend to be more flexible in their investments, searching for absolute, not relative, return.’
      • ‘It varies and without going into the details one of the other problems of this paper is it uses absolute benefits rather than relative benefits.’
      • ‘Zinc-responsive dermatosis is an uncommon disease of dogs resulting from either an absolute or relative deficiency in zinc.’
      • ‘Moreover, the absolute and relative fortunes of individual businesses are endlessly changing.’
      • ‘Importantly, there were greater absolute and relative benefits in the patients who had resistant symptoms and more severe impairment of left ventricular systolic function.’
      • ‘My results therefore seem to support the idea that absolute deprivation rather than relative deprivation is important for influencing mortality.’
      • ‘For understanding disease causation and to describe the impact of risk factors for disease, the traditional epidemiological measures are absolute and relative risk.’
      • ‘The rotation moment must therefore be resisted by the musculoskeletal stiffness and brace in proportion to their relative stiffness.’
      • ‘The real flaw in his policy was its confusion of relative power with absolute power.’
      • ‘All manner of other financial assets, especially the more exotic ones, have reached new highs in price and lows in absolute or relative yield in recent weeks.’
      moderate, reasonable, a fair degree of, considerable, some
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  • 2Grammar
    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.

    • ‘What's interesting about it is that it's a fused relative construction with human denotation, headed by the relative pronoun lexeme who.’
    • ‘Secondly, the relative pronoun has an antecedent in the poem, albeit divided from it by a colon.’
    • ‘The other personal relative pronoun, who, doesn't seem to be affected nearly as much.’
    • ‘A contrast of personal and non-personal is also found with the relative pronouns who/whom versus which.’
    • ‘Both have missed out the relative pronoun ‘that’.’
    1. 2.1 (of a clause) attached to an antecedent by a relative word.
      • ‘There are two uncontroversial semantically-relevant distinctions between that and which in relative clauses in standard English.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A group of students in an English as a second language program served as subjects for special instruction in relative clause formation.’
      • ‘Well, toward the end of the third clause within this tripartite relative clause we find the following sequence of words.’
      • ‘In addition, accusative case on who does not typically survive when the word is shunted to the beginning of an interrogative or relative clause.’
  • 3Music
    (of major and minor keys) having the same key signature.

    • ‘Mrs. O'Keefe will be cheesed off if I have to tell her that I didn't get my homework on relative minors done.’
    • ‘To find the relative minor of a particular key go down a minor third from the tonic of the major key.’
    • ‘The premise is that the major key always prevails and all minor keys should be sung in terms of the relative major.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This piece will give the teacher a chance to review parallel and relative major/minor keys along with primary chord progressions.’
  • 4(of a service rank) corresponding in grade to another in a different service.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The war prompted the navy to assign relative rank to nurses on 1 July 1942.’
    • ‘I believe that nurses should have relative military rank.’


  • 1A person connected by blood or marriage.

    ‘much of my time is spent visiting relatives’
    • ‘Noel is survived by his wife and family, brothers, nephews, nieces, relatives, friends and neighbours.’
    • ‘Bulgarians count as kin relatives by blood and marriage on both the male and female sides.’
    • ‘Four patients in our study had relatives with renal failure of unknown origin.’
    • ‘Current plant workers are ineligible for membership, but their relatives are not.’
    • ‘But loans have to be repaid, even to relatives, and this is a common cause of family feuding and murder.’
    • ‘There are no legal restrictions on who can marry except for marriages between close relatives.’
    • ‘Last month, we admitted a woman with serious bleeding in early pregnancy and no relatives who would give blood.’
    • ‘He is sadly missed by his family, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends.’
    • ‘Among some groups it is common to greet close relatives not seen for a long time with a bear hug.’
    • ‘It is also common for relatives to be told even when the patients themselves do not know.’
    • ‘What motivates him is the smile on the faces of patients and their relatives when blood is made available in time.’
    • ‘The Dutch make a distinction between relatives by marriage and relatives by blood.’
    • ‘Since coeliac disease runs in families, relatives can have a blood test to check for antibodies.’
    • ‘He is survived by his nephews, nieces, relatives and family circle.’
    • ‘It is important to talk with your relatives about illnesses that are common in your family.’
    • ‘Germany has been the Schultzes' travel destination several times to connect with their relatives.’
    • ‘There is plenty of visiting among relatives and many special meals with symbolic foods shared by family members.’
    • ‘He is mourned by his sister, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.’
    • ‘The extended family is highly valued, and it is common for various relatives and generations to live under the same roof.’
    • ‘IT is very common to hear of our relatives and friends having high cholesterol or high lipids detected by a blood profile test.’
    relation, member of someone's family, member of the family, one's flesh and blood, one's own flesh and blood, next of kin
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    1. 1.1 A species related to another by common origin.
      ‘the plant is a relative of ivy’
      • ‘The effects of the fungus on other plant species, and particularly on wild relatives of the targeted crops, are completely unknown.’
      • ‘A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that the disease is a mutant relative of the common cold.’
      • ‘It is a larger relative of the common wild plant goat's beard, T. pratensis.’
      • ‘If pollen from an herbicide-resistant plant gets carried by the wind, it could pollinate a weed that's a relative of the plant.’
      • ‘Distinctiveness can be interpreted as the ‘genetic’ difference between a species and its closest relative.’
      • ‘Although the new species is not a crop pest, some of its relatives are.’
      • ‘The unnamed new species of fish is a smaller relative of the candiru, which is well known in the Amazon as a danger to people who go into the water.’
      • ‘The Sacramento perch was another native species similar to eastern relatives.’
      • ‘Tequila is not made from cactus, but from the agave plant, a relative of the aloe.’
      • ‘The chimp is the closest living relative of the human species; 97 percent of the DNA in chimps and humans is identical.’
  • 2Grammar
    A relative pronoun, determiner, or adverb.

    • ‘If there is ambiguity or unclarity with relative which, the same ambiguity or unclarity exists with relative who (m).’
    • ‘An operator (like always) within a relative clause does not like to take wider scope than operators outside the relative.’
    • ‘In the following pair, the first uses it as an interrogative content clause and the second uses it as a fused relative.’
    • ‘Occurrences of restrictive relative which are all over the place.’
  • 3Philosophy
    A term, thing, or concept that is dependent on something else.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The logic of relatives, which he was the first to investigate extensively, will eventually be recognized as a part of logic.’
    • ‘Stuart Mill came very near to the view which the logic of relatives forces us to take.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’
      • ‘Try to get yourself comfortable with their appropriateness, relative to the practical lifespan of the assets being depreciated.’
      • ‘In both cases, participant group youth experience a decrease in use relative to comparison youth of the same gender.’
      • ‘This means that furniture size should be relative to the appropriate space and free of bold patterns.’
      • ‘This measures the comparative advantage of coal relative to other sectors as a percentage of the cost of inputs.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Underfunding in nursing and allied health professions is relative to that in comparable professions and to the size of their workforce.’
      • ‘The data suggested a significant increase in oxygen demand when comparing the overhead exercise relative to the chest exercise.’
      • ‘Rather than comparing a behavior or therapy characteristic to a norm, it is compared for its salience relative to the other items.’
      • ‘All three groups showed impaired performance on the task relative to comparison groups.’
      proportionate, proportional, in proportion, commensurate, corresponding, dependent on, based on
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      1. 1.1In terms of a connection to.
        ‘some stars appear to change their position relative to each other’
        • ‘The sharpest distinction concerns the standing of the self relative to the group.’
        • ‘This should be done in terms of the company's objectives and its positioning relative to the competition.’
        • ‘The weaponry used also has to be seen in terms relative to the conflict at hand.’
        • ‘Recipes for gunpowder, relative to the proportions in the mixture of its three components, varied over the centuries of its use.’
        • ‘Another priority is the whole area of fixtures, relative to the imbalance between club and county - and pressures on inter-county players.’
        • ‘How one explains a given feature in relation to one sort of consciousness may not correspond with what is needed to explain it relative to another.’
        • ‘You'll also be able to judge how far away or close an enemy is from your position based on the volume of the gunfire and explosions relative to your position.’
        • ‘The combination of abdominal and back muscle contractions varies according to the position of the body relative to gravity.’
        • ‘Yet I am continually puzzled as to how other clubs in the First Division are continuing to not only survive, but employ quality players relative to this level.’
        • ‘Seven focus on pollution and prevention issues and three on wider concerns relative to corporate sustainability.’
        in proportion to, proportional to, commensurate with, in relation to, relative to, corresponding to, dependent on, based on
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    • 2In connection with; concerning.

      ‘if you have any questions relative to payment, please contact us’
      • ‘Last weekend, following the match awards ceremony, a press briefing was held to update the public on matters relative to World Cup 2007.’
      • ‘Even though this is not relative to warfare of today, the absence of ships means that fairer battles are guaranteed with each person having to build tanks and planes.’
      • ‘In the last few years, theoretical concerns relative to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease caused a similar donor loss.’
      • ‘These data provide additional concerns relative to the growing shortage of faculty.’
      • ‘So no, I don't think we have any concerns relative to that.’
      • ‘We've talked to the other office personnel and at this time, we can't connect any case relative to his disappearance.’
      • ‘He recalls a conversation with him in May, 2001 relative to his concerns about providing for the plaintiff.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The arguments that many have made, relative to the so-called failure to connect the dots, appear to be specious, at best.’
      • ‘I know this is relative to what you're talking about tonight.’


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