Absolute returns are positive returns that an asset achieves over time.
For instance, absolute returns from an investment in shares means positive returns over a period, irrespective of whether the overall market is up or down.
The returns are not compared to any other measure, as against relative returns.
Relative returns will be compared against a benchmark.
For instance, if you compare the returns from your investment in shares with that of the Sensex over a period of time, then you are looking at relative returns.