1. Considered in comparison or relation to something else: an animal with a large brain relative to body size; the relative quiet of the suburbs.
2. Having pertinence or relevance; connected or related: How are those remarks relative to the discussion?
3. Grammar Referring to or qualifying an antecedent, as the pronoun who in the man who was on TV or that in the dictionary that I use.
4. Music Having the same key signature. Used of major and minor scales and keys: A minor is the relative minor of C major.
a. A person related to another by heredity, adoption, or marriage.
b. A species or other taxon that shares a common ancestor, usually a relatively recent ancestor, with another: The jaguar is a relative of the lion.
2. Grammar A relative pronoun.
[Middle English, from Old French relatif, from Late Latin relātīvus, from Latin relātus, past participle of referre, to relate; see RELATE.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.