Difference Between Relatively and Comparatively

When referring to other things or while making comparisons with one another, people often interchangeably use the words relatively and comparatively. They can be considered as synonyms of each other, but most don’t know the difference between the two words. They have different meanings. The ways they are used and their etymology also differ.  

Relatively vs Comparatively  

The main difference between relatively and comparatively is that relatively is used in a very general sense to refer to things fairly to a certain degree. On the other hand, ‘comparatively’ is mainly used while making direct comparisons between two or more things, situations, or people or with what is considered the norm.  

Relatively vs Comparatively

The word ‘relatively’ is used when referring to things or situations in a relative manner. For example, ‘This is a relatively minor problem.’. It is derived from the Old French word, ‘relatij’, and the Late Latin word, ‘relativus’. Its use can be traced back to the 1520s. It has a more general purposeful use in comparison.  

The word ‘comparatively’ is used to directly compare things or situations with each other or other situations that have occurred in the past. For example, ‘We are tired after a comparatively short time’, ‘They are comparatively rare.’ Its use can be traced back to the 1400s and is derived from the Old French word, ‘comparatij’ and the Latin word, ‘comparativus’ and ‘comparati-’.   

Comparison Table Between Relatively and Comparatively  

Parameters of Comparison Relatively Comparatively 
Derived From The old French word, ‘relatij’ and Late Latin word, ‘relativus’ The old French, ‘comparatij’ and Latin, ‘comparativus’ and ‘comparat-’ 
Derived in The 1520s The 1400s 
Meaning To a certain degree when compared to others. Compared to other things or with what is usual. 
Uses General use During comparisons 
Examples ‘This is relatively easy’ or ‘the topic is relatively harder.’ ‘Japan is comparatively safer than other countries.’ or ‘USA is comparatively more expensive to live in.’ 

What is Relatively?  

When you want to make a comment about something in comparison to anything else, use comparatively. After a day of 0 degrees, 30 degrees may feel pretty warm.  

This adverb refers to how items are arranged adjacent to one other. Even though you’re just five, you could consider very tall if you’re surrounded by really small individuals. Fat-free ice cream is healthier than other treats, but it’s still ice cream. If you’ve been ill for a week and are feeling somewhat better, you’re only feeling somewhat better. This phrase makes sense only when comparing one object to another.  

Relatively has had several different definitions over the years. As an adverb, it could mean something in a relative manner and by comparison to something else. Archaic definitions can define relatively as ‘regarding something’ or ‘in proportion to something’.  

Some examples of practical use of the world relatively can be, ‘He measured his success relatively.’, ‘The price of this item is relatively high.’, ‘We’ve had a relatively cool spring.’, etc.  

The definition “having a mutual relationship, connected with each other” dates back to the 1590s; “arising from or determined by relationship to something else” dates back to the 1610s; “having or standing concerning something else” dates back to the 1650s; and “not absolute or existing by itself” dates back to 1704. From the 1520s, “relating to an antecedent” in grammar.  

‘Relatively’ can also be used to say something true or correct as a general statement even if it is not factually correct. For example, ‘This trip was, relatively speaking, a huge success.’  

What is Comparatively?  

Throughout the history of English, there have been various definitions and uses of the word ‘comparatively’. The most important is ‘of, related to, or forming the degree of comparison in a language that signifies a rise in the quality, quantity, or relationship conveyed by an adjective or adverb.’ It can also mean, ‘as compared to something else or to a similar situation.’  

Originally grammatically, it was applied to derived adjectives like larger, stronger, and gentler. The general notion of “evaluated, by comparison, relative” dates back to the 1590s. The definition “including the concurrent investigation of distinct branches of a subject” dates back to the 1670s. Wimetendlic was a loan translation of Latin ‘comparativus’ in Old English.  

It is used in such a way that it uses or proceeds by direct comparison. It can also be used to characterize systematic comparisons of likeness or dissimilarities. For example, ‘the comparative anatomy’ or ‘Scientific topics that have been studied comparatively.’  

Some examples of practical use of the word comparatively can be, ‘This coat is comparatively short.’, ‘At a comparatively recent date, he received an award, ‘Comparatively speaking, this is easy to use.’, ‘Hamsters are all comparatively small animals.’, ‘That country remains comparatively unaffected.’, ‘A comparatively large number of students were absent.’, etc.  

Main Differences Between Relatively and Comparatively  

  1. The word relatively is derived from the words ‘relatij’ and ‘relativus’ and the word comparatively is derived from the word ‘comparatij’, ‘comparativus’, and ‘comparat-’.  
  2. Relatively was derived in the 1520s and comparatively was derived in the 1400s.  
  3. Relatively means in comparison to other things, when something is referred to a certain degree. Comparatively means, something being compared to something else or the preconceived notion of what is normal.  
  4. The word relatively is used in a very general manner whereas the word comparatively is only used when making direct comparisons.  
  5. Some examples of ‘relatively’ can be, ‘This test is relatively easy. ‘The procedure was relatively easy.’ Some examples of ‘comparatively’ can be, ‘This subject is comparatively easy.’, ‘Comparatively fewer articles have been written on this topic.’, etc.

Conclusion  

The two words have a similar meaning, but comparatively, the things to which it refers might be implied rather than declared. You’d expect to know what it’s compared to when you hear the word “comparatively.” In other words, “comparatively” should only be used when drawing a direct comparison, but “relatively” can be used in a broader sense.  

References  

  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/a0021322  
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=liY4AAAAIAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=relatively+and+comparatively+english&ots=5cf2Gx4s8D&sig=j609C2zkNyX6GyP3JJ9GVisv0Tw  
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