com·​ple·​men·​ta·​ry | \ˌkäm-plə-ˈmen-t(ə-)rē \

Definition of complementary 

1 : serving to fill out or complete … their economies are more complementary than competitive …— William Petersen

2 : mutually supplying each other's lack … the complementary relationship that binds the two.— Colin S. Gray

3 : relating to or constituting one of a pair of contrasting colors that produce a neutral color when combined in suitable proportions

4 : being complements of each other complementary acute angles

5 : characterized by the capacity for precise pairing of purine and pyrimidine bases between strands of DNA and sometimes RNA such that the structure of one strand determines the other

6 : of, relating to, or based on complementary medicine Cancer, for example, might be treated by blending the best of the Western medicine … with complementary approaches that could include … acupuncture, nutrition, herbs and massage.— Julie Deardorff

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Other Words from complementary

complementarily \ ˌkäm-​plə-​ˈmen-​t(ə-​)rə-​lē , -​(ˌ)men-​ˈter-​ə-​lē, -​ˈta-​rə-​ \ adverb
complementariness \ ˌkäm-​plə-​ˈmen-​t(ə-​)rē-​nəs \ noun
complementary noun

Examples of complementary in a Sentence

… hot and sour soup encapsulates the Taoist principle central to Chinese culture: yin and yang, the notion of balancing the universe's opposing yet complementary forces. — Rebecca Hays, Cook's Illustrated, January & February 2006 Once Austin got used to what he had on, Jerry was going to talk him into a neck scarf of complementary colors and a cream pullover. — Alice Munro, Atlantic, January 1990 Vann and Ellsberg were the odd couple, difficult men from different worlds satisfying complementary needs in each other. — Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, 1988 … it was becoming more and more clear to him that Miss Bart herself possessed precisely the complementary qualities needed to round off his social personality. — Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, 1905 She wore a new outfit with a complementary scarf. My spouse and I have complementary goals.
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Recent Examples on the Web

For their latest outing, the duo sported complementary and distinctive streetwear looks that were representative of their individual personal styles. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Bella Hadid and The Weeknd Do Couples Style in Matching Chunky Sneakers," 29 Sep. 2018 Joining the crowd at the Grand Palais this morning, Paradis and Lily-Rose arrived arm-in-arm in complementary looks that showcased the cross-generational appeal of Karl Lagerfeld’s designs. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Vanessa Paradis and Lily-Rose Depp Share a Chic Mother-Daughter Moment at Chanel," 3 July 2018 Companies can’t sell patient data to another party or market complementary products based on a person’s health condition—like sending coupons for diapers to a woman with a prescription for prenatal vitamins. Sharon Terlep, WSJ, "Amazon’s PillPack Deal Gives It Access to Sensitive Health Data," 1 July 2018 Take Chloe and Halle, for example, who wore colorful, complementary Marc Jacobs dresses that were belted at the waist. Emilia Petrarca, The Cut, "Five Standout Looks From the MTV Movie & TV Awards," 18 June 2018 So wind and solar are complementary, but not enough so to solve the problem or cover the gaps. David Roberts, Vox, "Solar power’s greatest challenge was discovered 10 years ago. It looks like a duck.," 31 Mar. 2018 Having initially left Boca Juniors to join the Chinese Super League side in January 2017, Tevez - who was earning £615k-a-week at the time - was not complementary of his experience in China., "Report: Carlos Tevez Hurt in Prison Match While Visiting Brother," 28 Mar. 2018 More: Here's the truth about Sen. Joe Donnelly's effectiveness and Donald Trump's attacks against him Obst added that the two are very different, but complementary. Kaitlin Lange, Indianapolis Star, "Mike Pence is 'literally the most loyal human on earth' to Trump, adviser says," 22 May 2018 Journey Into Europe’ is that throughout history, Islamic and European civilizations have often been not just compatible, but complementary. New York Times, "11 New Books We Recommend This Week," 5 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'complementary.' 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 complementary

1829, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for complementary

see complement entry 1

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Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for complementary

The first known use of complementary was in 1829

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English Language Learners Definition of complementary

: completing something else or making it better : serving as a complement

—used of two things when each adds something to the other or helps to make the other better

: going together well : working well together


com·​ple·​men·​ta·​ry | \ˌkäm-plə-ˈmen-tə-rē \

Kids Definition of complementary

: serving to make whole or improve something Their complementary talents make them a great team.


com·​ple·​men·​ta·​ry | \ˌkäm-plə-ˈment-ə-rē, -ˈmen-trē \

Medical Definition of complementary 

1 : relating to or constituting one of a pair of contrasting colors that produce a neutral color when combined in suitable proportions

2 : characterized by molecular complementarity especially : characterized by the capacity for precise pairing of purine and pyrimidine bases between strands of DNA and sometimes RNA such that the structure of one strand determines the other

Other Words from complementary

complementarily \ -​ˈmen-​trə-​lē, -​(ˌ)men-​ˈter-​ə-​lē, -​ˈment-​ə-​rə-​lē \ adverb
complementariness \ -​ˈment-​ə-​rē-​nəs, -​ˈmen-​trē-​ \ noun

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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