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Alternative forms




relative +‎ -ly


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹɛl.ə.tɪ
    • (US, Canada) IPA(key): (enunciated) [ˈɹɛl.ə.tʰɪ], (flapped) [ˈɹɛl.ə.ɾɪ][note 1]
      • Audio (US, enunciated):(file)
      • Audio (US, flapped, less common)):(file)



relatively (not comparable)

  1. In a relative manner; with reference to environment or competition; contextually or comparatively.
    • 1802 March, Fisher Ames, “Balance of Europe”, in Works of Fisher Ames. Compiled by a number of his friends. To which are prefixed, Notices of his life and character.[1], Boston: T. B. Wait & Co., published 1809, →OCLC, page 257:
      In the present position of Europe, it is obvious, that France domineers. She has gained positively, by adding territory to her dominions [...]; she has gained relatively, by removing Austria to a distance, and by weakening that ancient rival to such a degree, as to secure her inaction for an age.
    • 1890, [Jacques] Élisée Reclus, “Java”, in A. H. Keane, editor, Oceanica (The Earth and Its Inhabitants; 14)‎[2], New York: D. Appleton and Company, Inhabitants:
      [T]he Sundanese [...] have better preserved their primitive usages than the other inhabitants of the island. They are as a rule taller, more robust, and healthier; but they are regarded as relatively barbarous, and in the company of Malays or Javanese, they are themselves ashamed of their dialect, which is looked on as a sort of rude patois.
    • 1983 May 5, Paul Harvey, Tim Clutton-Brock, “The Survival of the Theory”, in New Scientist[3], volume 98, number 1356, London: New Science Publications, →ISSN, page 313:
      Some organs may grow faster than the rest of the body so that their size increases not only in absolute terms, but also relatively to the rest of the body, which is positive allometry; []
  2. (sometimes proscribed) Somewhat; fairly.
    • 2005 January, “Honda VTX1800F”, in Cycle World[4], volume 44, number 1, →ISSN:
      Additionally, the F never lets you forget it's one big and very heavy motorcycle. The wide bars give you the leverage to bend it into a corner relatively quickly, but you feel its mass resisting. [] On the freeway, the seat–relatively thin to keep ride height down–offers a pleasant site for your rear through a tank of gas.

Usage notes


The word literally means "compared with", but some now use relatively to mean "moderately" or "somewhat" (perhaps in the sense of "compared to the average/expectation"), which is sometimes proscribed. Its overall acceptability comes from the implied comparison to some standard, usually what is considered normal or average in the context of what is being evaluated. For example, "He was relatively successful" implies "He was relatively successful compared to the average person."

Derived terms





  1. ^ In General American and Canadian English, the flapped [ɾ] pronunciation [ˈɹɛl.ə.ɾɪv] of relative is more common than the aspirated [tʰ] pronunciation [ˈɹɛl.ə.tʰɪv]; but in the derived adverb relatively, the aspirated pronunciation [ˈɹɛl.ə.tʰɪ] is more common, though the flap-t version can still be heard, especially in casual speech.