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[verb ri-laps; noun ri-laps, ree-laps] /verb rɪˈlæps; noun rɪˈlæps, ˈri læps/
verb (used without object), relapsed, relapsing.
to fall or slip back into a former state, practice, etc.:
to relapse into silence.
to fall back into illness after convalescence or apparent recovery.
to fall back into vice, wrongdoing, or error; backslide:
to relapse into heresy.
an act or instance of relapsing.
a return of a disease or illness after partial recovery from it.
Origin of relapse
late Middle English
1400-50; (v.) late Middle English < Latin relāpsus, past participle of relābī to slide back, revert (re- re- + lāb- v. stem + -sus for -tus past participle suffix); (noun) late Middle English < Medieval Latin relāpsus, equivalent to Latin relāb(ī) + -sus for -tus suffix of v. action
Related forms
relapsable, adjective
relapser, noun
unrelapsing, adjective
3. regress, revert, lapse. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for relapse
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Meanwhile the news had spread that there was a relapse and that the doom impended.

    The Royal Life Guard Alexander Dumas (pere)
  • And when the relapse fell on him, was he in most respects—or in all respects—as he was then?

    A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
  • And they who feared a relapse into his former evil ways were happily disappointed.

  • Not now; and I'll take care not to have a relapse,' said he gravely.

    Lord Kilgobbin Charles Lever
  • He tried to be discreet, but in August, with the full moon, he had a relapse.

    The Precipice Elia Wilkinson Peattie
British Dictionary definitions for relapse


verb (intransitive) (rɪˈlæps)
to lapse back into a former state or condition, esp one involving bad habits
to become ill again after apparent recovery
noun (rɪˈlæps; ˈriːˌlæps)
the act or an instance of relapsing
the return of ill health after an apparent or partial recovery
Derived Forms
relapser, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin relabī to slip back, from re- + labī to slip, slide
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for relapse

early 15c., "renounce;" 1560s, "fall into a former state," from Latin relapsus, past participle of relabi "slip back, slide back, sink back," from re- "back" (see re-) + labi "to slip" (see lapse (n.)). Related: Relapsed; relapsing.


mid-15c., from relapse (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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relapse in Medicine

relapse re·lapse (rĭ-lāps')
v. re·lapsed, re·laps·ing, re·laps·es

  1. To regress after partial recovery from illness.

  2. To slip back into bad ways; backslide.

  3. To fall or slide back into a former state.

n. (rē'lāps, rĭ-lāps')
A falling back into a former state, especially the return of symptoms following an apparent recovery. Also called recurrence.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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