[ noun kom-pluh-muhnt; verb kom-pluh-ment ]
/ noun ˈkɒm plə mənt; verb ˈkɒm pləˌmɛnt /
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See synonyms for: complement / complemented / complementing / complements on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
to complete; form a complement to: This belt complements the dress better than that one.
Obsolete. to compliment.
verb (used without object)
Obsolete. to compliment.


Compliment vs. Complement

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Origin of complement

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Latin complēmentum “something that completes,” equivalent to complē(re) “to fill, fill up” + -mentum noun suffix; see origin at complete,-ment

synonym study for complement

12. Complement, supplement both mean to make additions to something. To complement is to provide something felt to be lacking or needed; it is often applied to putting together two things, each of which supplies what is lacking in the other, to make a complete whole: Two statements from different points of view may complement each other. To supplement is merely to add to: Some additional remarks may supplement his address.

words often confused with complement

Complement and compliment, which are pronounced alike and originally shared some meanings, have become separate words with entirely different meanings. As a noun, complement means “something that completes or makes perfect”: The rare old brandy was a perfect complement to the delicious meal. As a verb, complement means “to complete”: A bright scarf complements a dark suit. The noun compliment means “an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration”: The members paid her the compliment of a standing ovation. The verb compliment means “to pay a compliment to”: Everyone complimented him after the recital.


com·ple·ment·er, noun


1. complement , supplement (see synonym study at the current entry)2. complement , compliment (see confusables note at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What’s the difference between complement and compliment?

The word complement most commonly refers to something that goes along with something else and serves to make it better or complete it. It’s also commonly used as a verb meaning to serve as a complement in this way, as in That necklace really complements the rest of your outfit. A compliment is a comment intended to express praise or admiration of someone. Compliment is also commonly used as a verb meaning to give a compliment.

Complement has many other specific meanings, but compliment is really only used to refer to a nice comment or the action of giving one.

Since the primary senses of both words are generally used in positive contexts, it can be easy to confuse them.

The adjective form of complement is complementary, as in complementary colors. The adjective form of compliment is complimentary, which can describe something intended to be a compliment, as in complimentary remark, or it can be used to mean that something is given for free, as in I hope we get complimentary snacks on this flight.

The easiest way to remember the difference is that complement often means to complete, and complete also starts with c-o-m-p-l-e. On the other hand, compliment is spelled with an i, and compliments are something that I like to get (and give). Nice shirt, by the way.

Here’s an example of complement and compliment used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: The chef overheard the diners at one table complimenting the way the sauce complemented the fish, so she told the server to offer them a complimentary dessert.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between complement and compliment.

Quiz yourself on complement vs. compliment!

Should complement or compliment be used in the following sentence?

The two singers have very different styles, but they _____ each other so well during the performance.

How to use complement in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for complement


noun (ˈkɒmplɪmənt)
verb (ˈkɒmplɪˌmɛnt)
(tr) to add to, make complete, or form a complement to

Word Origin for complement

C14: from Latin complēmentum, from complēre to fill up, from com- (intensive) + plēre to fill

undefined complement

Avoid confusion with compliment
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for complement

[ kŏmplə-mənt ]

A group of proteins in blood serum that interact systematically as part of the body's immune response to destroy disease-causing antigens, especially bacteria. Complement proteins interact with antibodies and other chemical substances to cause the disintegration of foreign cells and enhance other immune functions such as phagocytosis.
A complementary color.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.