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complement

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noun com·ple·ment \ˈkäm-plə-mənt\

Definition of complement

  1. 1a :  something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect The scarf is a perfect complement to her outfit.b :  the quantity, number, or assortment required to make a thing complete … the usual complement of eyes and ears … — Francis Parkman; especially :  the whole force or personnel of a shipc :  one of two mutually completing parts :  counterpart She is a kind of complement to me, and we get on famously. — Flannery O'Connor

  2. 2a :  the angle or arc that when added to a given angle or arc equals a right angle in measureb :  the set of all elements that do not belong to a given set and are contained in a particular mathematical set containing the given setc :  a number that when added to another number of the same sign yields zero if the significant digit farthest to the left is discarded —used especially in assembly language programming

  3. 3 :  the musical interval required with a given interval to complete the octave

  4. 4 :  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”)

  5. 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)

Examples of complement in a Sentence

  1. 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

  2. Exact observation of the outer world was the complement to a literal reading of Scripture. —Garry Wills, Under God, 1990

  3. The usual complement of Kremlin guards was about, one company of infantry with light arms. —Tom Clancy, Red Storm Rising, 1986

  4. His faults are accepted as the necessary complement to his merits. —W. Somerset Maugham, Moon and Sixpence, 1919

  5. The scarf is a perfect complement to her outfit.

  6. a full complement of farm animals

  7. her usual complement of attendants

  8. a ship's complement of officers

  9. President in they elected her president and to work in he wants to work are different kinds of complements.

Recent Examples of complement from the Web

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.

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.

Illustration of complement

Origin and Etymology of complement

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


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complement

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verb com·ple·ment \ˈkäm-plə-ˌment\

Definition of complement

  1. intransitive verb
  2. obsolete :  to exchange formal courtesies

  3. transitive verb
  4. 1 :  to complete or enhance by providing something additional :  to be complementary to The illustrations complement the text.

  5. 2 obsolete :  compliment

Examples of complement in a Sentence

  1. Carrots often work even better than sticks, so I propose a skinny subsidy to complement the fat tax. —Jonathan Rauch, Atlantic, December 2002

  2. 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

  3. … 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

  4. … 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

  5. The shirt complements the suit nicely.

  6. a delicious dinner complemented by a splendid dessert

  7. The soup and salad complement each other well.

Recent Examples of complement from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of complement

see 1complement


COMPLEMENT Defined for English Language Learners

complement

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noun

Definition of complement for English Language Learners

  • : 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

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verb

Definition of complement for English Language Learners

  • : to complete something else or make it better


COMPLEMENT Defined for Kids

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complement

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noun com·ple·ment \ˈkäm-plə-mənt\

Definition of complement for Students

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

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


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complement

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verb com·ple·ment \ˈkäm-plə-ˌment\

Definition of complement for Students

complemented

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complementing

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


Medical Dictionary

complement

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noun com·ple·ment \ˈkäm-plə-mənt\

Medical Definition of complement

  1. 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. 2:  a complementary color

  3. 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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