Complementary vs. Complimentary

by Heather on April 12, 2010

Lexical Vexations

complementary adj. completing something or satisfying a lack in something.

complimentary adj. 1. flattering; expressing praise. 2. given freely and without cost.

Words in the Wild: After she left her complimentary remarks about the concierge with the hotel manager, Sonja found complimentary scones outside her door each morning with complementary clotted cream and jam.

This lexical vexation often finds its way into writing, but it’s pretty easy to check for once you know to be on the lookout. Complementary has the e from complete, and complimentary has the i from compliment.

Still vexed? You can find a complete list of the Word Blog’s lexical vexations here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

spectrekitty August 11, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Wow! Excellent mnemonic. HOW have I not found this site before??

Charlie April 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Well, Heather… I’d like to compliment you on this complementary advice!

Heather February 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Yes, I am. Glad to hear you like the blog.

Jax February 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm


Anonymous July 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Thanks. Have never had a tool for remembering which was which. Now it seems so obvious!

Rob shaw January 28, 2012 at 9:29 am

That was very helpful. I was reading a book and came across that word and just didn’t think it looked right. Thanks for the insight on the 2 usages.

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