a. The easing of a pain, distress, or anxiety: The drug provides quick relief from asthma. The news of their safe arrival came as a great relief.
b. Something that alleviates pain, distress, or anxiety: It was a relief to see that everyone had arrived safely.
a. Aid in time of danger: disaster relief.
b. Rescue from a siege: troops sent for the relief of the fort.
c. Public assistance: people eligible for relief.
a. Release from a post or duty, such as that of sentinel.
b. One who takes over a post or duty for another.
4. Something that makes a pleasant or amusing change from something tedious or unpleasant: The music was a great relief after all those phone calls.
a. The projection of figures or forms from a flat background, as in sculpture, or the apparent projection of such shapes in a painting or drawing.
b. A work of art featuring such projection. Also called relievo.
6. Geology The variations in elevation of an area of the earth's surface.
7. Distinction or prominence due to contrast: "The light brought the white church ... into relief from the flat ledges" (Willa Cather).
8. Law The objective sought by a lawsuit or legal action, such as an award of monetary damages or an order requiring the other party to take a particular action.
9. Baseball The pitching done by a relief pitcher: gave the team two innings of excellent relief.
10. A payment made by the heir of a deceased tenant to a feudal lord for the privilege of succeeding to the tenant's estate.
Receiving public assistance because of need or poverty.
[Middle English, from Old French, from relever, to relieve; see RELIEVE. Senses 5, 6, and 7, French, from Italian rilievo; see BAS-RELIEF.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. 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.