"Compliment" Versus "Complement"

Do you get confused when trying to spell compliment (or is it complement)? Here's a memory trick to help you remember the difference.

Mignon Fogarty,
January 25, 2015


Compliment Complement

It can be difficult to remember the two spellings and meanings of the words we pronounce as "compliment." They’re homophones—one is spelled with an i and the other is spelled with an e, and even though they sound the same, they mean different things.


A compliment, with an i, is a kind or flattering remark. If a friend says he likes your new shoes, he’s giving you a compliment. He’s complimenting you.


A complement, with an e, is a full crew or a set, and when something complements something else, it means they go well together. You might talk about a picture frame that complements a photo or the crew complement needed to operate a ship.

A Trick to Remember the Difference

To remember the difference between the spellings of these words, be a nice person and tell yourself

I like to give compliments.

Put the emphasis on the I when you say or think it. The I can remind you that the type of flattering compliment is spelled with an i

[Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared January 29, 2012.]


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