adj. & n.
adj. 1 considered or having significance in relation to something else (relative velocity). 2 (foll. by to) having existence only as perceived or considered by (beauty is relative to the eye of the beholder). 3 (foll. by to) proportioned to (something else) (growth is relative to input). 4 implying comparison or contextual relation ('heat' is a relative word). 5 comparative; compared one with another (their relative advantages). 6 having mutual relations; corresponding in some way; related to each other. 7 (foll. by to) having reference or relating (the facts relative to the issue). 8 involving a different but corresponding idea (the concepts of husband and wife are relative to each other). 9 Gram. a (of a word, esp. a pronoun) referring to an expressed or implied antecedent and attaching a subordinate clause to it, e.g. which, who. b (of a clause) attached to an antecedent by a relative word. 10 Mus. (of major and minor keys) having the same key signature. 11 (of a service rank) corresponding in grade to another in a different service. 12 pertinent, relevant; related to the subject (need more relative proof).
n. 1 a person connected by blood or marriage. 2 a species related to another by common origin (the apes, man's closest relatives). 3 Gram. a relative word, esp. a pronoun. 4 Philos. a relative thing or term. relative atomic mass the ratio of the average mass of one atom of an element to one twelfth of the mass of an atom of carbon-12: also called atomic weight. relative density Chem. the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a standard, usu. water for a liquid or solid, and air for a gas. relative molecular mass the ratio of the average mass of one molecule of an element or compound to one twelfth of the mass of an atom of carbon-12: also called molecular weight. relatival adj. (in sense 3 of n.). relatively adv. relativeness n.
[ ME f. OF relatif -ive or LL relativus having reference or relation (as RELATE) ]