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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for complement

Synonyms: Noun

correlate, supplement

Synonyms: Verb

complete, round (off or out)

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In April, the employment services office notified Nadeau and council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who oversees the agency, that the developer had failed to hire the full complement of D.C. residents. Paul Schwartzman, Washington Post, "D.C. Council delays $46 million tax break for Adams Morgan hotel," 18 June 2019 There's the full complement of blasters and the good ol' Neuralyzer, a pen-like device that emits a beam wiping the memories of those who’ve seen alien activity. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "Where is heck is Will Smith in 'Men In Black: International' and other burning questions," 13 June 2019 Altuve ran the bases at full speed before taking a full complement of ground balls and batting practice prior to Tuesday's game against the Brewers. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros' José Altuve nearing rehab assignment," 11 June 2019 That movie, notably, aired without a full complement of commercials, as sponsors shied away from supporting a film with that subject matter. Brian Lowry, CNN, "LBGTQ TV: A history of gay characters, from Stonewall to 'Batwoman'," 7 June 2019 For Wednesday, Nursick said the full complement of 634 state plow vehicles would be called into service. Nicholas Rondinone, courant.com, "Fourth March Nor'easter Threatens 12 Inches Of Snow," 20 Mar. 2018 With the full complement of big men now available, Prunty faces the decision of how to use them. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wizards 107, Bucks 104: Running out of chances," 27 Feb. 2018 Not all of them remain, of course, but the idea of adding another full complement of picks into the locker room is insane. cleveland.com, "Odds are in Browns' favor to find the right quarterback -- or quarterbacks," 9 Feb. 2018 The natural setting is a perfect complement to enjoying a glass of superior wine. Mark Rogers, USA TODAY, "Already been to Napa Valley? Next head south to Mexico's wine country, Valle de Guadalupe," 6 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Amidst all this, a beauty look that could not complement her nine costume changes—including one Marie Antoinette-worthy ball gown—was a tall order. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "The Story Behind FKA Twigs’ Mesmerizing Magdalene Tour Makeup," 21 May 2019 Lipa's makeup was also fierce, starting with her dark, slicked back hair that complemented her radiant complexion. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Dua Lipa Looks Ravishing in a Red Valentino Gown at the 2019 amfAR Gala," 24 May 2019 The key is to use the finish in a way that will complement the overall look of the room and not overwhelm the space. Monique Valeris, ELLE Decor, "Everything You Need to Know About High-Gloss Paint," 22 May 2019 Given the setting, Abbott’s been leaning toward clothes that complement this throwback. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "On Tour, Jorja Smith Is a Modern Renaissance Girl," 30 Apr. 2019 Renowned as Jackie Kennedy's former vacation spot, this Cape Cod cottage has the sort of understated charm that complements—rather than competes with—its garden and beachfront views. Candace Braun Davison, House Beautiful, "You Can Now Get Designers' Most Iconic Looks in Your Own Home," 14 Mar. 2019 Accessorize with pillows in a color that complements your cabinetry. Jessica Dailey, Good Housekeeping, "Nooks," 11 Feb. 2019 Baby soft skin and pulled back tresses complemented the look. Akili King, Vogue, "Ciara Goes Bare Faced, and More of the Best Beauty Instagrams of the Week," 28 Apr. 2019 These include these multi-modal devices, the interactive displays, that are designed to work with voice but also complement it with visual. Eric Johnson, Recode, "What’s next for virtual assistants like Alexa? Maybe buying stuff for you automatically.," 24 Dec. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about complement

Statistics for complement

Last Updated

25 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for complement

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 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)

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on complement

What made you want to look up complement? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

showing courage and determination

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!