Complementary vs. Complimentary

What's the Difference?

Complementary and complimentary are two words that are often confused due to their similar spellings. However, they have different meanings and usage in the English language. Complementary refers to something that completes or enhances another thing, often used in the context of colors, skills, or relationships. For example, "The blue and orange colors are complementary to each other." On the other hand, complimentary means expressing praise or admiration towards someone or something. It is commonly used to describe a positive comment or a free item or service given as a gesture of goodwill. For instance, "She received complimentary tickets to the concert for her outstanding performance."


DefinitionTwo things that together enhance or emphasize each other's qualities.Expressing praise, admiration, or approval.
UsageCommonly used in the context of colors, relationships, or concepts.Commonly used in the context of compliments, gestures, or services.
MeaningRefers to things that complete or go well with each other.Refers to actions or words that show appreciation or approval.
ExamplesBlack and white, day and night, yin and yang.Thank you, well done, beautiful.
RelationshipDescribes a harmonious connection or balance between two elements.Describes an expression of positive sentiment towards someone or something.

Further Detail


Words can often be confusing, especially when they sound similar but have different meanings. Two such words that often cause confusion are "complementary" and "complimentary." While they may sound alike, they have distinct meanings and are used in different contexts. In this article, we will explore the attributes of these two words, highlighting their definitions, usage, and examples.


The word "complementary" is an adjective that describes something that completes or enhances another thing when combined. It implies a sense of harmony, balance, or compatibility. Complementary items or elements are designed to work together to create a whole or to enhance each other's qualities. This concept is commonly used in various fields, including art, design, mathematics, and even relationships.

For example, in art and design, complementary colors are pairs of colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. When used together, they create a vibrant contrast and enhance each other's visual impact. In mathematics, complementary angles are two angles that add up to 90 degrees, forming a right angle. They are considered complementary because they complete each other to form a whole right angle.

In relationships, complementary personalities or traits refer to individuals who possess qualities that balance and enhance each other. For instance, one person may be outgoing and extroverted, while their partner may be more introverted and calm. Together, they complement each other's strengths and weaknesses, creating a harmonious and balanced relationship.

Overall, the attribute of "complementary" emphasizes the idea of completion, enhancement, and harmony when two or more elements or individuals are combined.


On the other hand, the word "complimentary" is also an adjective, but it has an entirely different meaning. It is used to describe something that is given or provided as a gesture of praise, admiration, or goodwill. When something is complimentary, it is given for free or without charge, often as a token of appreciation or to promote a product or service.

For example, a hotel might offer complimentary breakfast to its guests, meaning the breakfast is provided free of charge as a gesture of hospitality. Similarly, a company might offer complimentary samples of their products to potential customers to showcase their quality and generate interest. In these cases, the word "complimentary" is used to convey the idea of something being given as a gift or bonus, without any expectation of payment.

Furthermore, "complimentary" can also refer to words or actions that express praise, admiration, or approval. When someone gives a compliment, they are offering kind words to acknowledge and appreciate someone's qualities, achievements, or efforts. These compliments can be given in various contexts, such as personal relationships, professional settings, or even in public speeches.

It is important to note that "complimentary" is often confused with "complementary" due to their similar pronunciation. However, their meanings and usage are distinct, and understanding the difference can help avoid confusion and miscommunication.

Examples of Complementary and Complimentary

To further illustrate the attributes of "complementary" and "complimentary," let's explore some examples:

Complementary Examples

  • The chef used complementary spices to enhance the flavors of the dish.
  • The interior designer chose complementary colors for the living room to create a visually appealing space.
  • John and Sarah have complementary skills, which make them a great team at work.
  • The puzzle pieces fit together perfectly, showing their complementary shapes.
  • The orchestra played a complementary melody that beautifully accompanied the soloist.

Complimentary Examples

  • The hotel offers complimentary Wi-Fi to all its guests.
  • The restaurant provided complimentary desserts to celebrate their anniversary.
  • The author received many complimentary reviews for her latest novel.
  • The company sent a complimentary gift to its loyal customers as a token of appreciation.
  • The speaker delivered a complimentary speech, praising the efforts of the volunteers.


In conclusion, while "complementary" and "complimentary" may sound similar, they have distinct meanings and usage. "Complementary" refers to something that completes or enhances another thing when combined, emphasizing harmony, balance, and compatibility. On the other hand, "complimentary" describes something that is given or provided as a gesture of praise, admiration, or goodwill, often without charge. Understanding the attributes of these words can help avoid confusion and ensure accurate communication. So, whether you are talking about complementary colors in art or receiving a complimentary gift, remember to use the right word for the right context.

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