complement

noun
com·ple·ment | \ˈkäm-plə-mənt \

Definition of complement 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something that fills up, completes, or makes better or perfect The scarf is a perfect complement to her outfit.

b(1) : the full quantity, number, or assortment needed or included … the usual complement of eyes and ears …— Francis Parkman … after several more minutes of waiting, the full complement of runners was sent off by the starter's pistol.— Craig Neff

(2) : the whole force or personnel of a ship

c : one of two mutually completing parts : counterpart She is a kind of complement to me, and we get on famously.— Flannery O'Connor

2 : an added word or expression by which a predication is made complete (such as president in "they elected him president" and beautiful in "he thought her beautiful")

3a : the angle or arc that when added to a given angle or arc equals a right angle in measure

b : the set of all elements that do not belong to a given set and are contained in a particular mathematical set containing the given set

c : a number that when added to a certain number of the same sign yields a number with the digit 1 as the significant digit farthest to the left and the digit 0 in every other digit place used especially in assembly language programming

4 : the musical interval required with a given interval to complete the octave

5 : the thermolabile group of proteins in normal blood serum and plasma that in combination with antibodies causes the destruction especially of particulate antigens (such as bacteria and foreign blood corpuscles)

complement

verb
com·ple·ment | \ˈkäm-plə-ˌment \
complemented; complementing; complements

Definition of complement (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to complete or enhance by providing something additional : to be complementary to The illustrations complement the text.

2 obsolete : compliment

intransitive verb

obsolete : to exchange formal courtesies

Illustration of complement

Illustration of complement

Noun

complement 3a: ACB right angle, ACD complement of DCB (and vice versa), AD complement of DB (and vice versa)

In the meaning defined above

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Synonyms for complement

Synonyms: Noun

supplement

Synonyms: Verb

complete, round (off or out)

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Is it complement or compliment?

Today there is no overlap between the meanings of complement and compliment, as either nouns or verbs, but their similar spellings and pronunciations make them prime candidates for confusion. Despite the difference in their meanings, both complement and compliment have roots in the Latin word complēre which means “to complete.” Complement remains true to that origin in its spelling and in its meanings that have to do with completing or completion. Keep that connection in mind and there should be no question as to whether complement or compliment is the correct word to use in a given context.

Examples of complement in a Sentence

Noun

With the loss of just one American and four Japanese carriers, including their complements of aircraft and many of their superbly trained fliers …  , Midway … put the Japanese navy at a disadvantage from which it never recovered. — David M. Kennedy, Atlantic, March 1999 Exact observation of the outer world was the complement to a literal reading of Scripture. — Garry Wills, Under God, 1990 The usual complement of Kremlin guards was about, one company of infantry with light arms. — Tom Clancy, Red Storm Rising, 1986 His faults are accepted as the necessary complement to his merits. — W. Somerset Maugham, Moon and Sixpence, 1919 The scarf is a perfect complement to her outfit. a full complement of farm animals her usual complement of attendants a ship's complement of officers “President” in “they elected her president” and “to work” in “he wants to work” are different kinds of complements.

Verb

Carrots often work even better than sticks, so I propose a skinny subsidy to complement the fat tax. — Jonathan Rauch, Atlantic, December 2002 The love of Bottom's bottomless vision at least complements, if it does not transcend, the rational love of Theseus. — Frank Kermode, Shakespeare's Language, 2000 … his ice-blue Appalachian eyes glint through horn-rimmed glasses, which complement his salt-and-pepper beard. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New Yorker, 19 June 1995 … lively photographs, illustrations and cartoons designed to complement the meanings of the poems and give a leg-up to the imagination. — Carol Ann Duffy, Times Literary Supplement, 4-10 Dec. 1987 The shirt complements the suit nicely. a delicious dinner complemented by a splendid dessert The soup and salad complement each other well.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And Oden looked like the perfect complement, a dominant big man who was being compared to Bill Russell. Greg Moore, azcentral, "Moore: The case for Suns to draft Deandre Ayton with No. 1 NBA draft pick," 2 June 2018 The e-book, once seen as the death knell of the traditional book, is looking more like a complement to it, now — useful on business trips, but not entirely satisfying on a sunny Sunday morning, curled up on the couch. David Scharfenberg, BostonGlobe.com, "Paper checks forever?," 21 Apr. 2018 Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses seem like an ideal complement given his ability to protect the rim and also operate some on the perimeter, and as one of the youngest players in the draft, offers significant long-term upside. Jeremy Woo, SI.com, "Mock Draft 6.1: Projecting All 60 Picks As the Early Entry Deadline Approaches," 18 Apr. 2018 Deep red is a natural complement to blue — this mulberry red has some blue in it. Christine Pittel, House Beautiful, "How to Cozy Up a Large Space With Loads of Color," 23 Mar. 2016 The Swiss-dot trimmed dress featured leather at the sleeves, a nice complement to the corset-like belt. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "Kate Moss Has Just the Right Styling Trick to Transform a Little Black Dress," 13 July 2018 Following Woponese, Wopo released Trapnese with fellow rapper Hardo, a nine track album that features 21 Savage -- a rapper whose dead-eyed nihilism serves as a nice complement to Wopo’s ecstatic, bubbly proclamations of love and war. Will Schube, Billboard, "Jimmy Wopo Would've Been Next Up in Pittsburgh's Burgeoning Rap Scene," 20 June 2018 These wide, flat ribbons were a great complement to a meaty, rich house ragù, but swam in an odd dish with calabrese sausage and a sauce that was too thin and brothy for my taste. Kate Washington, sacbee, "It's not flashy or splashy, but Roseville's Ciao excels at cooking classic Italian," 8 June 2018 That Carter-Williams' long arms and 6-6 height would be a great complement to the 6-1 Walker and be a strong pairing with Monk off the bench. Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "For Charlotte Hornets, is point guard depth a burning draft need? | Charlotte Observer," 18 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

A few months ago, the commission selected Flaherty and Collins to redevelop the property with housing, green space and other amenities to complement the nearby downtown. Amy Lavalley, Post-Tribune, "Michigan distillery's wastewater hurdles, growth on minds as plans in Valparaiso continue," 13 July 2018 And until Posey’s single, Norwood was deceptively successful thanks to use of a split-finger fastball to complement a sharp slider and 96-mph fastball. Mark Gonzales, chicagotribune.com, "Cubs reliever James Norwood shows promise in his debut: 'He had some great stuff'," 12 July 2018 But on-and-off power is what’s needed to flexibly complement variable renewable energy. David Roberts, Vox, "The US is rapidly losing nuclear power. That’s profoundly concerning for climate change.," 11 July 2018 Liverpool legend Phil Thompson believes Lyon midfielder Nabil Fekir would be an ideal player to complement the arrival of Naby Keita at Anfield. SI.com, "Liverpool Legend Hopeful Over Deal for Reds Transfer Target as Support for New Man Naby Keita," 10 July 2018 Perhaps another rival, Under Armour, could bring Booker on to complement the more established Stephen Curry. Bryan Kalbrosky, azcentral, "Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker could be an NBA free agent soon ... in shoes," 10 July 2018 To complement the marmalade, Mattos goes for an unusual cheese for a burger: the ultra-melty Italian semisoft cheese taleggio. Paula Forbes, GQ, "These Toppings Are The Secret to Making a Good Burger Great," 29 June 2018 Will Chicago be able to draft a franchise cornerstone to complement Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen? Manny Navarro, miamiherald, "After quiet draft night, Pat Riley explains why this summer may be the same for Heat," 22 June 2018 Train said the Church could also imagine open space on part of the land, something to complement the vast plaza across the street. Tim Logan, BostonGlobe.com, "Boston’s retro-style MidTown Hotel may give way to development," 14 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'complement.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of complement

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1602, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for complement

Noun

Middle English, from Latin complementum, from complēre to fill up, complete, from com- + plēre to fill — more at full

Verb

see complement entry 1

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Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for complement

The first known use of complement was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for complement

complement

noun

English Language Learners Definition of complement

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something that completes something else or makes it better

: the usual number or quantity of something that is needed or used

grammar : a word or group of words added to a sentence to make it complete

complement

verb

English Language Learners Definition of complement (Entry 2 of 2)

: to complete something else or make it better

complement

noun
com·ple·ment | \ˈkäm-plə-mənt \

Kids Definition of complement

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something that makes whole or better The cool salad was the perfect complement to the spicy dish.

2 : the number or quantity of something that is needed or used the ship's complement of crew

complement

verb
com·ple·ment | \ˈkäm-plə-ˌment \
complemented; complementing

Kids Definition of complement (Entry 2 of 2)

: to serve as something necessary to make whole or better Find a hat that complements your costume.

complement

noun
com·ple·ment | \ˈkäm-plə-mənt \

Medical Definition of complement 

1 : a group or set (as of chromosomes or DNA) that is typical of the complete organism or one of its parts — see chromosome complement

2 : a complementary color

3 : the thermolabile group of proteins in normal blood serum and plasma that in combination with antibodies causes the destruction especially of particulate antigens (as bacteria and foreign blood corpuscles)

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Comments on complement

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