In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), most patients relapse despite achieving remission. While relapse-specific mutations are sometimes detected at low frequency within bulk diagnosis samples, the cell type giving rise to relapse is unknown. Through combined genetic and functional analysis of purified subpopulations and xenografts from paired diagnosis/relapse samples, we identified two major patterns of relapse arising from therapy-resistant cells already present at diagnosis. In some cases relapse originated from rare leukemia stem cells with a primitive immunophenotype, while in other instances relapse developed from larger subclones of immunophenotypically-committed cells that retained strong stemness transcriptional signatures. The identification of distinct patterns of relapse should lead to improved methods for disease management and monitoring in AML. Moreover, the shared functional and transcriptional stemness properties that underlie both cellular origins of relapse underscore the importance of developing new therapeutic approaches that target stemness to prevent relapse.