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[rel-ik] /ˈrɛl ɪk/
a surviving memorial of something past.
an object having interest by reason of its age or its association with the past:
a museum of historic relics.
a surviving trace of something:
a custom that is a relic of paganism.
  1. remaining parts or fragments.
  2. the remains of a deceased person.
something kept in remembrance; souvenir; memento.
Ecclesiastical. (especially in the Roman Catholic and Greek churches) the body, a part of the body, or some personal memorial of a saint, martyr, or other sacred person, preserved as worthy of veneration.
a once widespread linguistic form that survives in a limited area but is otherwise obsolete.
Origin of relic
1175-1225; Middle English < Old French relique < Latin reliquiae (plural) remains (> Old English reliquias), equivalent to reliqu(us) remaining + -iae plural noun suffix
Related forms
reliclike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for relic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A relic of Flodden Field , a ring, was found in 1783, on the site of the battle.

    Finger-Ring Lore William Jones
  • I found it in this cell, after the death of the martyr, and have preserved it as a relic.

    The Black Tulip Alexandre Dumas (Pere)
  • Another interesting and pathetic find was a spur, engraved with “En loial amour, tout mon coer,” the relic of some unknown knight.

  • The mistresses of the present princes are a relic of polygamy.

    The Sexual Question August Forel
  • It is a relic of the age of gold, when this precious metal was used in a thousand forms, not seen to-day.

    Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks William Elliot Griffis
British Dictionary definitions for relic


something that has survived from the past, such as an object or custom
something kept as a remembrance or treasured for its past associations; keepsake
(usually pl) a remaining part or fragment
(RC Church, Eastern Churches) part of the body of a saint or something supposedly used by or associated with a saint, venerated as holy
(informal) an old or old-fashioned person or thing
(pl) (archaic) the remains of a dead person; corpse
(ecology) a less common term for relict (sense 1)
Word Origin
C13: from Old French relique, from Latin reliquiae remains, from relinquere to leave behind, relinquish
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 relic

early 13c., "body part or other object from a holy person," from Old French relique (11c., plural reliques), from Late Latin reliquiæ (plural) "remains of a martyr," in classical Latin "remains, remnants," noun use of fem. plural of reliquus "remaining, that which remains," related to relinquere (perfective reliqui) "to leave behind" (see relinquish). Sense of "remains, ruins" is from early 14c. Old English used reliquias, directly from Latin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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