Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahm-plê-mênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. An expression of respect, praise, or admiration. 2. (Plural, compliments) Indication of a formal act of courtesy, respect, as 'a gift was sent, compliments of a friend'.

Notes: Today's contributor thought that, since we've distinguished complement from compliment, we should look into compliment, too. It serves as a verb meaning "to make a compliment" and its adjective is complimentary. It also offers an active personal noun, complimenter, and a passive one, complimentee.

In Play: You will hear today's word used as a noun in comments like this: "Rhoda Book thought that her husband's comment that her new novel was 'interesting' was a left-handed compliment at best." As a verb, it is likely to pop up in expressions like this: "I'm afraid I can't compliment you, my darling daughter, on your choice of a fiancé."

Word History: After adopting and adapting complement from Latin complementum "that which fills or completes", English helped itself to French compliment. French had borrowed its word from Italian complimento, which originally meant "that which fills up, completes", but had between 1655 and 1715 slowly evolved into the sense of "compliment", presumably via the understanding that a compliment was a final act, a completion of sorts. So, the source of compliment and complement is one and the same. (Now let's compliment Tony Bowden, in London, for his contribution of superior Good Words like today's since 2011.)

Dr. Goodword,

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