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

correlate, supplement

Synonyms: Verb

complete, round (off or out)

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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

Through three quarters, when the full complement of starters were on the field, Alabama averaged only three yards per attempt. Rainer Sabin | Rsabin@al.com, al, "Behind star power, Alabama’s offense kicks into high gear," 31 Aug. 2019 With Wilson the perfect complement to Marshawn Lynch in a run-heavy offense, the Seahawks finished top 10 in scoring and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs, coming up just short of an upset in Atlanta. Robert Klemko, SI.com, "Darrell Bevell Bounces Back Again, This Time in Detroit," 29 Aug. 2019 Defensive back Carson King, punter Roger Sanguinetti and defensive linemen Isaiah Dycus and Luke Long are among the key returners, with a full complement of varsity newcomers expected to step in. Jack Marrion, Houston Chronicle, "Which District 19-6A football team will be this year’s Tompkins?," 20 Aug. 2019 Lidar supporters view the technology as the third leg of a stool, a critical complement to the other sensors on a self-driving vehicle: cameras and radar. Matt Mcfarland, CNN, "Most self-driving companies say this tech is crucial. Elon Musk disagrees.," 17 June 2019 Cher inspired awe with her groovy hip-grazing hair, spidery mink lashes, and bright long talons, always a fitting complement to her glittering Bob Mackie gowns. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "From Josephine Baker to Cher, 25 Camp Beauty Icons Through the Decades," 2 May 2019 The changeup put Lincecum at another level, the ultimate complement to his fastball and often confused with his slider. John Shea, San Francisco Chronicle, "Is Shohei Ohtani the new Freak? Like Tim Lincecum, he’s must-see theater," 10 Apr. 2018 Thousands participate in the Cincinnati Sister March, a complement to the Women's March on Washington Saturday, January 21, 2017. Monroe Trombly, Cincinnati.com, "Cincinnati Women's March this Saturday: What time, where," 17 Jan. 2018 Gray, 27, won’t hit free agency until after the 2019 season, giving the Yankees a strong complement to Luis Severino not just this year, but in the future as well. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "Dodgers, Yankees Make Big Moves for Pitching," 31 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Kordei's makeup artist, Grace Pae complemented the purple tones in her dress with a matching violet eye and a hint of gold in the inner corners. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "Normani Is Already Winning the VMAs Red Carpet With Her Shimmery Purple Smoky Eye," 27 Aug. 2019 The programs will complement the district’s music and theater programs while creating a feeder program for Potter Junior High. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, "How they voted, Aug. 25," 25 Aug. 2019 These sources of income will complement passive income streams. NBC News, "Millennials are determined to retire early. Here's how they can actually pull it off.," 16 Aug. 2019 Nova moved a two-seam fastball and cutter at will, complementing with a changeup when necessary. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Iván Nova tosses complete game as White Sox topple Astros to cap doubleheader," 13 Aug. 2019 The retail outlets will be complemented with a cargo container converted to a restaurant on the 1.65-acre property, Andy said. Julie Gallant, Ramona Sentinel, "Casa Rustica expects to expand to Santa Ysabel," 22 July 2019 Here's another way Wimbledon stands apart: The four Grand Slam tournaments offer behind-the-scenes tours, but only Wimbledon complements that with a full-fledged museum that explores the tournament and the broader history of the game. Stuart Miller, latimes.com, "Wimbledon is the ultimate pilgrimage for tennis fans and those who love tradition," 23 June 2019 With rose gold metal The recent explosion of rose gold in popularity means that your old party dress feels instantly new when complemented with the warm hue. Leah Melby Clinton, Marie Claire, "How to Make Your Boring LBD Feel New Again," 16 Nov. 2018 The fastball is already a plus-pitch that the 6-foot-5 righty complements with a slider, curveball and changeup. Jeff Wilson, star-telegram, "Potential draft targets in Rangers' quest to develop a starting pitcher," 4 June 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.

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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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Statistics for complement

Last Updated

3 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for complement

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

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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)

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Comments on complement

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