tr.v. re·lieved, re·liev·ing, re·lievesIdiom:
a. To cause a lessening or alleviation of: relieved all his symptoms; relieved the tension.
b. To make less tedious, monotonous, or unpleasant: Only one small candle relieved the gloom.
2. To free from pain, anxiety, or distress: I was relieved by the news that they had arrived home safely.
a. To furnish assistance or aid to: relieve the flooded region.
b. To rescue from siege.
a. To release (a person) from an obligation, restriction, or burden.
b. To free from a specified duty by providing or acting as a substitute.
c. Baseball To enter the game as a relief pitcher after (another pitcher).
5. Informal To rob or deprive: Pickpockets relieved him of his money.
6. Archaic To make prominent or effective by contrast; set off.
To urinate or defecate.
[Middle English releven, from Old French relever, from Latin relevāre : re-, re- + levāre, to raise; see legwh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: relieve, allay, alleviate, assuage, lighten2, mitigate, palliate
These verbs mean to make something less severe or more bearable. To relieve is to make more endurable something causing discomfort or distress: "that misery which he strives in vain to relieve" (Henry David Thoreau).
Allay suggests at least temporary relief from what is burdensome or painful: "This music crept by me upon the waters, / Allaying both their fury and my passion / With its sweet air" (Shakespeare).
Alleviate connotes temporary lessening of distress without removal of its cause: "No arguments shall be wanting on my part that can alleviate so severe a misfortune" (Jane Austen).
To assuage is to soothe or make milder: assuaged his guilt by confessing to the crime. Lighten signifies to make less heavy or oppressive: legislation that would lighten the taxpayer's burden. Mitigate and palliate connote moderating the force or intensity of something that causes suffering: "I ... prayed to the Lord to mitigate a calamity" (John Galt). "Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing" (Ernest Hemingway).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus