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 ©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.