complement

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

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 How to pronounce complement (audio) \
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

Synonyms: Verb

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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 Lander’s arrival next season pushes IU’s complement of scholarship players to 12. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, "Khristian Lander makes it official, gives IU basketball significant boost for 2020," 18 May 2020 Fortunately, Lynch and Shanahan have surrounded Garoppolo with a nice complement of weapons. Ben Volin, BostonGlobe.com, "The pressure is on Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019," 3 Aug. 2019 Pittman will be a perfect complement to both Hilton, the outside deep threat who can do everything, and Campbell, the burner who is effective on jet sweeps, screens. Joel A. Erickson, Indianapolis Star, "Colts address their biggest need with USC WR Michael Pittman: 'It was the right fit'," 24 Apr. 2020 And that could serve as an underappreciated boost to the Mavericks championship pursuits, providing Doncic flexibility and injury reassurance and Porzingis the ideal frontcourt complement for his unique skill-set. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "Mavs’ path to NBA title contention: Strong support for Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis starts with two key rehabs," 20 Apr. 2020 The traditional Buffalo Plaid print is the perfect complement for country or rustic decor, and reviewers say the rug still looks as good as new after several washes. Camryn Rabideau, USA TODAY, "15 popular rugs from Ruggable that will make your house cozier," 17 Mar. 2020 And their homemade sauce is the perfect complement to their meaty bones. Brenda Cain, cleveland, "I’ve reported on ‘Cleveland’s Best’ contests for 3 years and these are the restaurants and dishes I keep going back to," 30 Dec. 2019 Not only that, but the mild-mannered Taaffe was the perfect complement to the hard-driving O’Leary. Mike Bianchi, orlandosentinel.com, "Former UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe has died, but his Fiesta Bowl legacy will live forever | Commentary," 29 Oct. 2019 The stark, remote Aussie landscape was the perfect complement to the gang’s outrageous style—and, more importantly, for their conversations about life, love, and identity. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Road Trip Movies," 25 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb His 12 employees are currently collecting unemployment benefits, which isn't that bad considering the new $600 weekly federal benefits that complement Michigan's normal per-week benefit, which maxes out at $362. Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "Metro Detroit businesses hope to not lose out again on Paycheck Protection Program," 24 Apr. 2020 When considering a family to share with, screen candidates for basic qualities that complement your own. Katie Peek, New York Times, "Is a Nanny Share Right for Your Family?," 18 Apr. 2020 Hatton chose Italianate, a classical style of architecture that complemented the hotel’s large stained-glass skylight and elegant dining and ballrooms. Courtland Milloy, Washington Post, "The Whitelaw gave black people a place to stay when other hotels turned them away," 18 Feb. 2020 Rae’s record label, (an imprint of Atlantic Records), put together the high-energy soundtrack that complemented the show’s vibrant color palette, interweaving Ruff Ryders, Eve, and , to name just a few. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Issa Rae’s New Record Label Curated New York Fashion Week’s Coolest Playlist," 14 Feb. 2020 Roche, our parent company, has a major diagnostics division that complements its pharmaceutical business. Thomas Grogan, STAT, "A doctor-entrepreneur’s guide to socially responsible capitalism," 31 Jan. 2020 Many of the first wave of guests have been water-bound, but a slew of clever programming that complements the springs can offer a more holistic wellness holiday. Chadner Navarro, Fortune, "Arizona’s very first luxury resort—originally opened in 1896—is back in business," 28 Jan. 2020 Out on the red carpet, Eilish continued her signature gender-less style trend by wearing a neon-green and black Gucci outfit that complemented her green hair dye, as well as green nail polish, fingerless gloves and dark sunglasses. Trilby Beresford, The Hollywood Reporter, "Billie Eilish Makes History as Youngest Grammy Winner in All 4 Main Categories," 27 Jan. 2020 Mazik wrote in a blog post that complements the exhibit. Hayes Gardner, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville Slugger Museum exhibit sheds light on forgotten African American baseball team," 24 Jan. 2020

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 and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for complement

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for complement

Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Complement.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complement. Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for complement

complement

noun
How to pronounce complement (audio)

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
How to pronounce complement (audio)

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 How to pronounce complement (audio) \

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 How to pronounce complement (audio) \
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 How to pronounce complement (audio) \

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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