A complement is something that makes up a satisfying whole with something else. Those shiny red shoes you just bought complement your shiny red purse.

Complement comes from the Latin complementum, "something that fills up or completes." Complement keeps both the e and the meaning. It's also a verb; if you and your partner complement each other, you make a perfect pair. Something that complements completes or adds a little something.

Definitions of complement
  1. noun
    something added to complete or embellish or make perfect
    synonyms: accompaniment
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    type of:
    something added to another thing but not an essential part of it
  2. noun
    a complete number or quantity
    “a full complement
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    type of:
    the total number counted
  3. noun
    number needed to make up a whole force
    “a full complement of workers”
    synonyms: full complement
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    company, ship's company
    crew of a ship including the officers; the whole force or personnel of a ship
    type of:
    hands, manpower, men, work force, workforce
    the force of workers available
  4. noun
    either of two parts that mutually complete each other
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    type of:
    counterpart, opposite number, vis-a-vis
    a person or thing having the same function or characteristics as another
  5. noun
    a word or phrase used to complete a grammatical construction
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    type of:
    construction, expression, grammatical construction
    a group of words that form a constituent of a sentence and are considered as a single unit
  6. noun
    one of a series of enzymes in the blood serum that are part of the immune response
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    type of:
    any of several complex proteins that are produced by cells and act as catalysts in specific biochemical reactions
  7. verb
    make complete or perfect; supply what is wanting or form the complement to
    “I need some pepper to complement the sweet touch in the soup”
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    type of:
    balance, equilibrate, equilibrise, equilibrize
    bring into balance or equilibrium
Commonly confused words

complement / compliment

Both are awesome on a first date — complement means to complete something, and a compliment is flattering. If you feel you and your new friend complement each other, maybe it's because he's been giving you so many compliments like when he says you look like a supermodel.

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