late 14c., "alleviation of distress, hunger, sickness, etc; state of being relieved; that which mitigates or removes" (pain, grief, evil, etc.)," from Anglo-French relif, from Old French relief "assistance," literally "a raising, that which is lifted;" from stressed stem of relever (see relieve).
The meaning "aid to impoverished persons" is attested from c. 1400, from 19c. especially of assistance by governments; that of "deliverance of a besieged town" is from c. 1400. The word was used earlier in English as "that which is left over or left behind," also "feudal payment to an overlord made by an heir upon taking possession of an estate" (both c. 1200).
in sculpture, architecture, etc., "projection of figure or design from the flat surface on which it is formed," c. 1600, from French relief, from Italian rilievo, from rilevare "to raise," from Latin relevare "to raise, lighten" (see relieve). In physical geography, "the form of the surface of any part of the earth" (by 1842), especially in relief map.
Model Mapping.—The plan of representing countries in relief is gaining ground, particularly in Germany. [William Richard Hamilton, president's address to the Royal Geographical Society of London, May 23, 1842]
It forms all or part of: alleviate; alleviation; alto-rilievo; carnival; elevate; elevation; elevator; leaven; legerdemain; leprechaun; Levant; levator; levee; lever; levity; levy (v.) "to raise or collect;" light (adj.1) "not heavy, having little weight;" lighter (n.1) "type of barge used in unloading;" lung; relevance; relevant; releve; relief; relieve.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit laghuh "quick, small;" Greek elakhys "small," elaphros "light;" Latin levare "to raise," levis "light in weight, not heavy;" Old Church Slavonic liguku, Russian lëgkij, Polish lekki, Lithuanian lengvas "light in weight;" Old Irish lu "small," laigiu "smaller, worse;" Gothic leihts, Old English leoht "not heavy, light in weight."
1825 as a dish; 1930 in ballet, "a lifted step, a raising of the body on point or points," literally "raised up," from French relevé, 19th century verbal noun from past participle of relever "to raise" (see relieve). Middle English had relevement "relief, succor" (mid-15c., from Old French) and relevacioun "alleviation, relief; a raising up" (c. 1400, from Latin).
late 14c., "feeling of relief from sorrow or distress," c. 1400, "act of consolation;" see consolation. Consolatories (1650s) also was used.
"one who or that which relieves," late 15c., agent noun from relieve. Baseball sense ("relief pitcher," who replaces the starting pitcher when tired or in difficulty) is attested by 1945.