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Difference between complement or compliment

complement or compliment

In the English language, the words complement and compliment often cause confusion due to their similar spelling and pronunciation. However, they hold distinct meanings and usages. Complement refers to something that completes or goes well with something, enhancing its qualities. On the other hand, compliment pertains to a polite expression of praise or admiration. Understanding the subtle differences between these terms can significantly improve your language skills.

Quick Facts Table

Part of SpeechNoun and VerbNoun and Verb
DefinitionSomething that completes or enhances the qualities of anotherA polite expression of praise or admiration
UsageTo indicate completeness or the process of completingTo express praise or admiration towards someone or something

Difference Between Complement and Compliment

Definition of Complement

Complement as both a noun and a verb, refers to something that completes or goes perfectly with another, enhancing its qualities or making it whole. In a sentence, it often describes things that fit together well or complete each other in some way.

Definition of Compliment

Compliment, also functioning as both a noun and a verb, involves expressing praise, admiration, or congratulations to someone. It's a way of showing approval or appreciation for someone's qualities or achievements.

Origin of Complement

The word complement originates from the Latin “complementum,” meaning “something that completes.” It entered the English language in the 14th century, primarily used to denote completeness or the process of completing.

Origin of Compliment

Compliment comes from the Italian “complimento,” derived from the Spanish “cumplimiento,” which was a term for courtesy or politeness. It entered English in the 17th century, focusing on expressions of praise or admiration.


  • Complement: /ˈkɒmplɪmənt/
  • Compliment: /ˈkɒmplɪmənt/

Although they sound nearly identical, the context in which they are used can help distinguish them.

Comparing Complement and Compliment

Comparison Table

FunctionEnhances or completes somethingExpresses praise or admiration
ContextsOften used in relation to objects, colors, or qualities that enhance each otherTypically used in social interactions, expressing positive feedback
ExamplesA wine that complements a meal; complementary colorsGiving someone a compliment on their outfit; complimentary words

Usage in Sentences with Explanations

Use of Complement in Sentences

  1. The red tie really complements his suit, making it stand out more.
    • Here, complement indicates that the tie enhances the appearance of the suit.
  2. These two musicians complement each other perfectly in their duet.
    • The skills of each musician enhance the performance of the other.
  3. Adding salt complements the sweetness of the caramel.
    • The salt enhances the flavor of the caramel.
  4. The software update complements the existing security features.
    • The update adds to and enhances the security features.
  5. Their skills complement each other, making them a great team.
    • Each team member’s abilities enhance the group’s overall performance.

Use of Compliment in Sentences

  1. He received a compliment on his eloquent speech.
    • Someone praised his speech.
  2. Giving a compliment can brighten someone’s day.
    • Expressing admiration can make someone feel happy.
  3. She paid him a compliment on his cooking.
    • She praised his cooking skills.
  4. It’s common courtesy to return a compliment.
    • Responding to praise with praise is polite.
  5. They exchanged compliments at the meeting.
    • They praised each other’s contributions.


While complement and compliment may sound similar, their meanings and uses are distinct. Complement focuses on something that completes or enhances another, while compliment involves expressing praise or admiration. Recognizing these differences is crucial for effective communication.

Commonly Asked Questions

  • What is the main difference between “complement” and “compliment”?
    • Complement refers to something that completes or enhances, while compliment is an expression of praise.
  • Can “complement” and “compliment” be used interchangeably?
    • No, they serve different purposes and cannot be used interchangeably.
  • How can I remember the difference between “complement” and “compliment”?
    • Remember that complement has an “e” for “enhance” and compliment has an “i” for “admiration.”
Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, writer at, blends creativity with insight, exploring technology, culture, and psychology. With a background in English Literature, she crafts engaging stories inspired by nature and urban life. Outside writing, she enjoys exploring and continuous learning.View Author posts

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