complement

1 of 2

noun

com·​ple·​ment ˈkäm-plə-mənt How to pronounce complement (audio)
1
a
: 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")
3
a
: 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)

Illustration of complement

Illustration of complement
  • ACB right angle
  • ACD complement of DCB (and vice versa)
  • AD complement of DB (and vice versa)

complement

2 of 2

verb

com·​ple·​ment ˈkäm-plə-ˌment How to pronounce complement (audio)
complemented; complementing; complements

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

Did you know?

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Drinks like a jammy bourbon and red wine concoction or a creamsicle-like mocktail with orange juice and vanilla syrup are the perfect complement to a night out in a city with such stunning views. Louisa Kung Liu Chu, Chicago Tribune, 29 May 2024 Fortuitously, as the nurturing Moon in your social sector complements committed Saturn in your relationship realm, working together to solve the problem can strengthen your bond. Tarot.com, Baltimore Sun, 12 May 2024
Verb
The rich, smoky wood notes complement the sandalwood orpur and amberwood base notes in Goldie, creating a more grounded and warm fragrance experience. Kimberly Wilson, Essence, 8 June 2024 Adding this project to the area will complement Epic Central’s rapid development over the past four years, where 120,000 square feet have been built for food, entertainment, shopping and more. Jaida Joyner, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for complement 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'complement.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, "means of completing, consummation," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, "carrying out" (also continental Middle French), borrowed from Latin complēmentum "something that fills out or completes," from complēre "to fill, make up, carry to completion" + -mentum -ment — more at complete entry 1

Note: See note at compliment entry 1.

Verb

derivative of complement entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

1602, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

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

Dictionary Entries Near complement

Cite this Entry

“Complement.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complement. Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

complement

1 of 2 noun
com·​ple·​ment ˈkäm-plə-mənt How to pronounce complement (audio)
1
: something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect
2
: full quantity, number, or amount
a ship's complement of officers and crew
3
a
: the angle that when added to a given angle equals 90 degrees
b
: the set of all elements not included in a given mathematical set
4
: an added word or group of words by which the predicate of a sentence is made complete
"president" in "they elected her president" and "to work" in "he wants to work" are different kinds of complements
5
: a heat-sensitive substance in normal blood that in combination with antibodies destroys antigens (as bacteria and foreign blood corpuscles)

complement

2 of 2 verb
com·​ple·​ment ˈkäm-plə-ˌment How to pronounce complement (audio)
: to form or serve as a complement to
a shirt that complements a suit

Medical Definition

complement

noun
com·​ple·​ment ˈkäm-plə-mənt How to pronounce complement (audio)
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)

More from Merriam-Webster on complement

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