'Relevant' vs 'Irrelevant': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on November 11, 2023

‘Relevant’ vs ‘irrelevant’: What’s the difference? Sometimes, pairs of words can be easier to learn because they are opposites and thus naturally associated with each other. Let’s dive into the world of antonyms and learn some new vocabulary along the way. 

Are you in a rush? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come:

  • ‘Relevant’ is a term that means something is appropriate or noteworthy
  • ‘Irrelevant’ is a term that means something is not connected or relevant 

What’s the Difference Between ‘Relevant’ vs ‘Irrelevant’?

Learning the difference between these words is relatively simple, given that they are opposites of each other. But with this comes a few grammatical rules and tricks that give us the background of why these words appear as they do. 

When words are opposites, they are also known as antonyms. Finding antonyms to words is an easy way to compare them to other vocabulary you’ve learned, and they come in all types of combinations: 

  • For example, some antonym pairs are two separate words, like ‘happy’ vs ‘sad,’ and meanwhile, other antonym pairs have the same root word, such as ‘possible’ vs ‘impossible.’

Notice how, in the second example, the root word of the negative has some letters added to it?

This is what’s called a prefix:

  • A prefix is a letter or set of letters added to the beginning of a word to change its original meaning. 

In our case, the prefix ‘Ir-’ is added to the root word ‘relevant’ to form the word ‘irrelevant’ which changes the definition to “not relevant.” Based on this change in definition, it is safe to assume that the prefix ‘I-’ or ‘Ir-’ means “not.”

  • Other words using this prefix include " irreplaceable, " meaning “not replaceable,” and " inexpensive, " meaning “not expensive.”

Now that you know the basic breakdown of how these words relate to each other, we can dive deeper into what they mean and how to use them. Let’s take a closer look individually at ‘relevant’ vs ‘irrelevant.’

Definition of ‘Relevant’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘relevant’ is an adjective that means:

  • Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered
    • “What small companies need is relevant advice.”
  • Appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstance of contemporary interest
    • “Critics may find themselves unable to stay socially relevant.”
  • Having a significant or demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand
    • “He provided relevant information.”
  • Affording evidence tending to prove or disprove the matter at issue or under discussion

The word ‘relevant’ comes both from the Latin root ‘relevare’ which means “raising up” as in bringing up valuable information, and also the Scots legal term meaning “legally pertinent.”

Synonyms of ‘Relevant’

  • Appropriate
  • Pertinent
  • Admissible
  • Significant 
  • Important
  • Related
  • Suited
  • Applicable
  • Compatible
  • Germane
  • Consistent

Antonyms of ‘Relevant’

  • Irrelevant
  • Inappropriate
  • Unrelated
  • Unsuitable
  • Insignificant
  • Off the topic
  • Foreign 
  • Pointless 

Phrases with ‘Relevant’

  • Relevant information
  • Relevant to the times
  • Relevant evidence

Definition of ‘Irrelevant’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘irrelevant’ is an adjective that means:

  • Not connected with or relevant to something
    • “He made an irrelevant comment.”
  • Not related to what is being discussed or considered and therefore not important 
    • “What an irrelevant question to ask.”
  • Not important to or connected with a situation

Remember that the prefix ‘Ir-’ is what marks this as the negative form of the word and gives it its opposite definition. 

Synonyms of ‘Irrelevant’

  • Extraneous
  • Immaterial 
  • Trivial
  • Inconsequential
  • Pointless
  • Insignificant
  • Unimportant
  • Unnecessary
  • Impertinent
  • Beside the point
  • Not connected with
  • Unrelated

Antonyms of ‘Irrelevant’

  • Relevant
  • Appropriate
  • Connected
  • Related
  • Needed 
  • Significant
  • Meaningful
  • Substantial
  • Essential
  • Consequential 

Phrases with ‘Irrelevant’

  • Irrelevant information
  • Irrelevant connection
  • Irrelevant status 
  • Irrelevant celebrity

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Relevant’ vs ‘Irrelevant’

Since writing isn’t the only time we use language, it's good to have a grasp on words when we speak them as well. Follow the guide below to learn how to pronounce these new words correctly and to feel more comfortable using them aloud in conversation. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘relevant’ as a guide:

  • ‘Re-le-vehnt’ (all three vowels end up sounding the same with a flat ‘e’ sound as in the words “rest” or “tent”)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘irrelevant’ as a guide:

  • ‘Ee-re-le-vehnt’ (note that the spelling is the same except the prefix is a wide sound as in “tree,” and the additional ‘r’ at the beginning doesn’t affect pronunciation)

How to Use ‘Relevant’ vs ‘Irrelevant’ in a Sentence

The final step to mastering new words is being able to use them on your own terms. The sample sentences below will give you an idea of how these words can appear in a variety of contexts and show you ways to use them. 

‘Relevant’ Example Sentences

  • They had to do a project that was relevant to what they were studying in history class, so he made a model of the Pyramids of Giza.
  • On a resume, it’s best to provide examples of relevant job experience so that companies know you can do the type of work they’re hiring for. 
  • As performing artists get older, they sometimes struggle to make content that is relevant to the current times. 
  • She didn’t want to go on a tangent during her presentation, so she wrote out notecards with all the relevant information she needed to discuss. 

‘Irrelevant’ Example Sentences

  • The teacher was excited when the student enthusiastically raised their hand, but the question was irrelevant to the lecture and really was about using the bathroom. 
  • The judge struck the argument from the record, citing it as irrelevant to the court case at hand. 
  • The old YouTube star fell out of favor with the public after a series of lame videos and became irrelevant, according to many viewers. 
  • There was nothing she hated more than irrelevant comments being made when she was in the middle of talking about her passion project.

‘Relevant’ vs ‘Irrelevant’ Example Sentences

  • She was praised for how relevant her work was to the current social climate, while other students got marked down for being out of touch and irrelevant to today. 
  • After being called irrelevant by fans of his rival singer, he knew he needed to film some content that would make him popular and relevant again. 

Final Words on ‘Relevant’ vs ‘Irrelevant’

Learning how opposite words work is a great way to expand your vocabulary easily. However, learning the components of antonyms can help you unlock new ways to tackle other words as well, such as finding words with similar prefixes. 

Need a little review? Here’s a recap of the ‘Relevant’ information:

  • ‘Relevant’ is an adjective that refers to something appropriate or connected to what’s being discussed, 
  • Meanwhile, ‘Irrelevant’ is an adjective that means something is not connected or important to the topic at hand.

Want to learn about other opposing word pairs? Check out more of our confusing word articles that tackle everything from opposites to other types of prefixes that allow you to expand your vocabulary quickly and easily. Also, remember the contexts of this article to keep in mind what relevant information you should look for when learning new words. 

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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