Is it a complimentary gift or a complementary gift?1

Were you paid a compliment or a complement?2

Do peanut butter and jelly compliment or complement each other?3

To compliment (verb form) is to give “an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration.” A compliment (the noun form) is the expression itself.

To complement (verb form) is to “fill up, complete, or make perfect,” and a complement (the noun form) is the object or person that fills up, completes, or makes perfect.

1. complimentary
2. compliment
3. complement

Posted in Word Choice.

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  1. Edmundo says:

    I need to to thank you for this very good read!
    ! I absolutely loved every little bit of it.
    I have you book marked to check out new stuff you post_

  2. HMax says:

    Jason Smether is correct. Rachel V is wrong!

    • Rachel V. says:

      I am not incorrect, though Jason Smether has a point. Flowers and chocolates may be complementary to the room (as in completing the room) or complimentary (as in the hotel provided them free as a courtesy). It depends somewhat on the intended meaning.

  3. jeziiika says:

    mmmmmmmmm no tiene sentido ya q no se vasan a lo q necesito cortesias en un hotel de otro modo

  4. Jason Smether says:

    Example 1. I don’t agree. For example you might book a hotel room and the price might include “complementary flowers and chocolates”

    i.e. complementary means that the flowers are included in the price, they are part of the complement of the package . the complimentary gift isn’t a compliment its a complement

    this mistake drives me nuts and I see it everywhere

    • Rachel V. says:

      Jason: Complimentary can mean both “expressing praise” or “given free as a courtesy or favor.” Although flowers and chocolates might complement (as in “complete”) a hotel room package, the message that is most likely being communicated is that these items are included as a courtesy (at no extra charge), hence the use of complimentary.

      • Joe Sinclair says:

        I hope Jason Smether came back to read your reply. Otherwise he will continue to see this ‘mistake’ everywhere (mainly because it isn’t a mistake!)

  5. Rachel V. says:

    Good point, Tom.

  6. Tom Elliott says:

    ps sorry I left out some words above, I meant to “…if the gift was a complement to something already received…”

  7. Tom Elliott says:

    Regarding example 1. (above) ‘complementary’ could be used if the gift was a complement already received or possessed, eg “The socks were a complementary gift to the shoes she already owned”