Difference Between Complement and Supplement

Main Difference – Complement vs Supplement

The two words complement and supplement have similar meanings. Both these words refer to adding extra elements to something in order to complete it or enhance it. However, there is a distinct difference in the usage of these two words. We use complement when we want to say that something goes well with something. But, we use supplement when we are talking about an additional or extra element. This is the main difference between complement and supplement.

This article looks at,

1. What Does Complement Mean – Definition, Meaning and Usage

2. What Does Supplement Mean – Definition, Meaning and Usage

3. Difference Between Complement and Supplement 

What Does Complement Mean

Complement is something that completes something else or makes it better. The Oxford dictionary defines complement as a “thing that contributes extra features to something else in such a way as to improve or emphasize its quality” and Merriam-Webster defines it as “something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect some other thing.” Complement can be used both as a noun and a verb. As a verb, complement means to contribute extra features to something in such a way as to improve or emphasize their qualities. Complement usually refers to two things that go along well. For example, cheese and wine complement each other.

Given below are some sentences that have been written using this word.

This blue scarf complements your outfit.

The spicy sauce complemented the main dish.

She made new curtains to complement the furniture.

This necklace is a perfect complement to your dress.

This color will complement your dress perfectly.

Many people make the mistake of confusing complement with compliment. A compliment is saying something nice (praise) about someone. 

Difference Between Complement and Supplement

The curtains are a perfect complement to the room.

What Does Supplement Mean

Supplement refers to an addition or an extra element. Merriam-Webster defines it as “something that completes or makes an addition” and Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.” For example, a dietary supplement refers to a substance that is taken in addition to meals and a newspaper supplement refers to is an addition to the regular newspaper.

The doctor advised her to take an iron supplement.

She took a part-time job to supplement her main income.

They received a handout as a supplement to the official documents.

They issued a special supplement to celebrate the newspaper’s 100th birthday.

He included some more examples in the supplement.

Although both complement and supplement refer to adding extra elements to something in order to complete it or enhance, these two words cannot be used interchangeably. For example, we don’t say that the sauce supplements the dish to mean that sauce goes well with the main dish; we say sauce complements the dish. The use of the word supplement always implies an addition.

Main Difference - Complement vs Supplement

She was asked to take dietary supplements.

Difference Between Complement and Supplement

  • Both complement and supplement refer to adding extra elements to something in order to complete it or enhance it.
  • Complement refers to something that goes well with some other thing.
  • Supplement refers to an addition or an extra element.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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