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 The supermodel was spotted leaving a New York City salon on Tuesday, October 6, with brand-new caramel highlights, which are the perfect complement to her chocolate-brown hair. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Bella Hadid Got Chunky Highlights for Fall, and We’re Obsessed," 7 Oct. 2020 On the surface, this new initiative is supposed to expand domestic demand to complement, but not replace, external demand. Daniel Rosen, WSJ, "China Backslides on Economic Reform," 22 Sep. 2020 New offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s up-tempo, spread attack is a perfect complement to King’s athletic style of play. Keven Lerner, sun-sentinel.com, "Staff predictions for the Miami Hurricanes' 2020 season," 9 Sep. 2020 Northern Kentucky prep football squads joined in on the gridiron in Week 3 for a full complement of games on both sides of the river. James Weber, The Enquirer, "What we learned from high school football Week 3: Who made statements?; NKY joins the fold," 14 Sep. 2020 The revised schedule, however, puts the Trojans back at a full complement of 12 games. Creg Stephenson | Cstephenson@al.com, al, "Troy officially adds 4 non-conference games, moves Sun Belt opener to Sept. 5," 20 Aug. 2020 But the highlight—quite literally—was the subtle lick of light blue eyeshadow Leon matched with her dress, serving as the perfect complement to an otherwise all-natural look that featured a fresh-faced glow and underarm hair. Liam Hess, Vogue, "Lourdes Leon Has the Secret to Laid-Back Vacation Beauty," 18 Aug. 2020 With a full complement of players, the Bucks are hoping to put their best foot forward starting Tuesday. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Grizzlies 119, Bucks 106: Final seeding game is a dud for Giannis-less Milwaukee as focus turns to playoffs," 13 Aug. 2020 Made with an ultra-soft microfiber fabric, this inviting chair is available in four colors, any of which could be the perfect complement to your home. Shayna Murphy, USA TODAY, "Wayfair is having a massive sale on recliners right now," 10 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Thanks largely to Etsy and Amazon, there are a ton of breathable, reusable face mask options that will complement any costume. Malia Griggs, SELF, "23 Cute Halloween Face Masks to Complete Any Costume," 22 Oct. 2020 But far and away, my favorite part of using AncestryDNA was building out my family tree using the ThruLines feature, which is an add-on function that can complement your AncestryDNA gift membership (starting at $99 for a six-month membership). Shayna Murphy, USA TODAY, "You can get an AncestryDNA kit for less than $50 at Amazon," 14 Oct. 2020 Though his talents as an especially nimble and expressive guitarist are evident, the focus is on his voice and the songs themselves, which consistently complement each other. Keith Spera, NOLA.com, "New Orleans guitarist Colin Lake's new 'Forces of Nature' CD follows his two years at sea," 13 Oct. 2020 With Mosquera out, FCD will be looking to find another goal scorer who can complement Franco Jara, who leads the team with five goals. Angel Franco, Dallas News, "A week’s respite has FC Dallas feeling better prepared for upcoming clash with Columbus," 2 Oct. 2020 Martin is considered an elite defender, well-versed in Hurley’s aggressive style, and a scorer who can complement James Bouknight. Dom Amore, courant.com, "Transfer Tyrese Martin receives NCAA waiver, eligible to play for UConn men in 2020-21," 16 Sep. 2020 Harris, 55, also brings a compelling biography to the race, one that could complement that of Biden, 77. Tal Kopan, SFChronicle.com, "Why Kamala Harris was picked as Joe Biden’s running mate," 11 Aug. 2020 Those who have a hard time speaking up, those who don’t speak clearly or those who complement their speaking with a lot of facial expressions — smiles, round surprise mouth, etc.— are among that group, Brauer said. Bob Dohr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Why do some people refuse to wear face masks? Here's what mental health professionals say.," 7 Aug. 2020 Everett employs a unique approach to coaching where virtual reality can complement practice and drills. al, "New St. John Paul II coach teaches unique approach to football," 6 Aug. 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

24 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Complement.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complement. Accessed 29 Oct. 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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