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). Meaning "aid to impoverished persons" is attested from c. 1400; that of "deliverance of a besieged town" is from c. 1400. 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).
"projection of figure or design from a flat surface," c. 1600, from French relief, from Italian rilievo, from rilevare "to raise," from Latin relevare "to raise, lighten" (see relieve).