The Meaning of Rely: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of rely? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word rely, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word rely mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and Dictionary as well as other English dictionaries, the word rely (pronunciation of rely: ​​rɪˈlaɪ) is an intransitive verb that means to be dependent or to have confidence in someone or something based on experience. Someone that you can rely on often has integrity and discretion, and you can count on the ability of persons who are reliable to have a certainty of facts and a veracity to their demeanor. Political leaders often rely on the general public for votes, while the general public relies on the political leaders to provide support for the uncertainties of the future. Many members of a society rely on the government to provide public transportation, shelter, donations, and other basic needs. An employee relies on a job for crew training and a safe working environment. People will rely on a news report for factual information, or an episode of TV shows for humor or a culture reference. Try using this new word in a sentence today – it might become your new favorite word!

Many different languages also contain words that mean rely. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words that have the same meaning and also look and sound alike across languages. These are often formed when two words have the same root or language or origin such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word rely is provided by Word Sense

  • Portuguese: contar com‎
  • Czech: spoléhat‎
  • Italian: contare su‎, fare affidamento‎, basarsi‎
  • French: compter sur‎
  • German: sich verlassen (auf)‎
  • Manchu: ᠠᡴᡩᠠᠮᠪᡳ‎ (akdambi)
  • Irish: bí ag brath ar‎, cuir muinín i‎, muinín a bheith agat as‎
  • Maori: whakamanawa‎, whirinaki‎, whakawhirinaki‎
  • Spanish: contar con‎, atenerse‎
  • Arabic: اِعْتَمَدَ‎ (على)
  • Mandarin: 依賴‎, 依赖‎ (yīlài), 依靠‎ (yīkào)
  • Korean: 의지하다‎
  • Vietnamese: tin cậy‎, dựa vào‎
  • Hungarian: bízik‎, számít‎, hagyatkozik‎
  • Finnish: luottaa‎
  • Dutch: rekenen op‎
  • Swedish: lita på‎
  • Japanese: 頼る‎ (たよる, tayoru), あてにする‎ (ate-ni suru)
  • Polish: polegać na‎
  • Russian: полага́ться‎ (impf), положи́ться (на)‎

How can the word rely be used in a sentence?

The word rely can be used in many different contexts and settings, from casual English to proper English. The word rely is not considered one of many slang words that would not be appropriate to use in formal settings. In the following dialogs, Jay has had a long day at work and comes home to Greg.

Greg: How was work?

Jay: Terrible. Why they feel the need to check our search history is beyond me. I got yelled at for researching things that were not work related, even though I was on my lunch break. It’s ridiculous! Thankfully, I can always rely on you to be an ally in times of stress.

Here, Jay uses the word rely to show Greg that he knows Greg will always take his side when he is stressed out or feeling less than stellar.

What is the word origin of rely?

According to Etymonline, the word rely has been used since the early 14th century to mean to gather or assemble. This verb can be used as both a transitive verb and an intransitive verb, meaning that it can be used with or without an object. The word rely comes from the Old French relier, a verb that means to assemble or attach. This comes from the Latin ​religāre, a verb meaning to fasten or bind. This comes from the intensive prefix re- and the root ligare meaning to bind. This is from the Proto-Indo-European root leig, also meaning to tie or bind. Rely has been used to mean to depend on or trust since the 1570s, and is usually used with the word on. This might come from the initial usage of the word rally. Related words include reliable, relied, relying, reliance, reliant, religate, and religion. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word rely?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word rely. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning or definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful English language tool to know because they can help you avoid repeating yourself while also expanding your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word rely is provided by Thesaurus

  • bet
  • bet bottom dollar on
  • gamble on
  • trust in
  • take at face value
  • turn to
  • lean on
  • look to
  • count on
  • bet on
  • build on
  • swear by
  • be confident of
  • calculate on
  • expect
  • suppose
  • take
  • lay money on
  • commit
  • bank on
  • depend on
  • lean
  • ride on coattails
  • depend
  • confide
  • confide in
  • count
  • build upon
  • assume
  • place trust in
  • be sure of
  • await
  • presume
  • hope
  • reckon on
  • think likely
  • build
  • have faith in
  • bank
  • reckon
  • trust
  • imagine
  • accredit
  • look
  • place confidence in
  • calculate
  • believe in
  • entrust
  • be convinced
  • surmise

There are also numerous words that mean the opposite of the word rely. These are called antonyms, which are another great way to work on expanding your English language vocabulary in a quick and simple way. This list of opposite words for the word rely is also provided by Thesaurus

  • discount
  • wonder about
  • insinuate
  • scruple
  • unbelieve
  • be undetermined
  • question
  • suspect
  • doubt
  • misbelieve
  • query
  • discredit
  • not swallow
  • fear
  • eschew
  • give no credence to
  • fluctuate
  • shilly-shally
  • misgive
  • give no credence
  • disbelieve
  • harbor suspicion
  • have qualms
  • demur
  • mistrust
  • be uncertain
  • scoff at
  • hesitate
  • wonder at
  • surmise
  • distrust
  • be in a quandary
  • challenge
  • not buy
  • imagine
  • read differently
  • take dim view of
  • be curious
  • impugn
  • call in question
  • vacillate
  • waver
  • misdoubt
  • skepticize
  • repudiate
  • not accept
  • smell a rat
  • be apprehensive of
  • dispute
  • be wary of
  • reject
  • scout
  • not credit
  • be dubious
  • scorn
  • be puzzled

Overall, the word rely is a verb that means to count on. Try thinking about the complexities of the people you rely on today – do you rely on different people for different things? Is anyone in your life unreliable? Many people rely on voluntary support from others to make it through the day.