Definition of relict in US English:



  • 1A thing which has survived from an earlier period or in a primitive form.

    • ‘But in field after field, paper journals are becoming like academic caps and gowns, a purely ceremonial relict of an obsolete culture.’
    • ‘That was all a relict from the times of the Cold War, and had to go.’
    • ‘As times passed, times changed and, though many relicts of the ancients disappeared, this memorial became prized for its beauty and antiquity.’
    • ‘The caves are relicts from the last series of ice ages when sea level was 125 meters below its current level because so much water was locked up in polar ice sheets.’
    • ‘‘The Chinese Government has never relaxed in its efforts to retrieve the lost cultural relicts from overseas, but for various reasons, the work has met with lots of difficulties,’ Wang said.’
    • ‘It was a relict of the times before the First Apocalypse, the unknown era.’
    • ‘In its strive to adopt Western civilizations, the Imperial Meiji government banned tattooing as something considered a barbaric relict of the past.’
    • ‘So it was a relict for the eyes to arrive in the clear air of the busy mountain town, its open stone patios hanging with orchids in every shade - purple, white, the pink of roses.’
    • ‘The fact that Ushuaia is so remote has left it with a number of relicts of the days when the area was used by the Argentine government as a place to keep troublesome citizens out of sight and out of mind.’
    1. 1.1 An animal or plant that has survived while others of its group have become extinct, e.g. the coelacanth.
      • ‘The 13 living genera are relicts of this earlier diversification and represent one of the four major clades of placental mammals.’
      • ‘With the exception of D. corleyi, which is endemic to the coast of northern Spain, all are Macaronesian relicts with a highly fragmented distribution in the Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands, and on the southern European coast.’
      • ‘A tiny snail, a relict from the last great ice age, finds its home on a cool, rocky slope near the coldwater streams, cliffs, valleys, and sinkholes that make up the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa.’
      • ‘She suggested that many springflowering annuals in the Sonoran Desert, especially those with affinities to the California flora, are relicts of the Wisconsin.’
    2. 1.2 A species or community that formerly had a wider distribution but now survives in only a few localities such as refugia.
      • ‘Then came the settlers from Europe, and by the second half of the 19th century this sea of wildlife had been reduced to a relict population of perhaps 1,500.’
      • ‘Minor relict populations occur 50-80 km to the south and southwest.’
      • ‘These two species survive as relict populations in the mountains of eastern Mexico, sometimes in high elevation conifer stands but also in stands at mid-elevation that include hardwood trees.’
      • ‘Recovery work over the past three decades has included captive propagation from these relict populations and reintroduction of fish into historic stream habitat in New Mexico and Arizona.’
      • ‘Somewhere in Gondwana, a relict population held out.’
  • 2archaic A widow.

    • ‘The knowledge that a provision of this kind is in being can be a consolation to those aware of diminishing powers; and its activation could tangibly benefit their relicts.’
    • ‘Where the court is balancing the relict's claims against those of others, she might claim that she actually owned the house, which, therefore, did not pass under the will anyway.’


Late Middle English (in relict (sense 2)): from Old French relicte ‘(woman) left behind’, from late Latin relicta, from the verb relinquere ‘leave behind’. relict (sense 1) arose in the early 20th century and is from Latin relictus, past participle of relinquere.