Definition of compliment in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkɒmplɪm(ə)nt/
1A polite expression of praise or admiration: she paid me an enormous compliment
More example sentences
  • It was expected that a gentleman would pay a polite compliment to a lady of his acquaintance, but quite another matter to be seen to mean it.
  • I received a look of awkward horror followed by some hasty compliments, an expression of surprise and the insistence that it was ‘very competitive’.
  • If you have decided to be a strand style setter, enjoy the challenges, the hard work and the ultimate compliments and admiration for a style well designed.
flattery, blandishments, blarney, honeyed words
North American informal, dated trade last
rare laudation, eulogium
1.1An act or circumstance that implies praise or respect: it’s a compliment to the bride to dress up on her special day
More example sentences
  • Now that's actually a compliment to Gehry, but it still implies that the bridge was on obstacle, rather than being something interesting to work with.
  • It's not only good karma and a nice thing to do - it's a compliment to the manager that you respect and appreciate his staff.
  • This was meant to be a compliment to him, and to wish him well in his retirement.
1.2 (compliments) Congratulations or praise expressed to someone: my compliments on your cooking
More example sentences
  • My compliments on their effort in this tournament.
  • My compliments on finally tackling this oily business.
  • Please give the cook my compliments on the wonderful food.
congratulations, praise, commendations
North American informal kudos
1.3 (compliments) Formal greetings, especially when sent as a message: carry my compliments to your kinsmen
More example sentences
  • Your host sends his compliments and asks that we hurry.
greetings, good wishes, best wishes, regards, respects, salutations, felicitations
archaic remembrances
French archaic devoirs


Pronunciation: /ˈkɒmplɪmɛnt/
[with object]
1Politely congratulate or praise (someone) for something: he complimented Erika on her appearance
More example sentences
  • And I don't think a little thing like it being my native language should stop people from complimenting me on it.
  • ‘People are complimenting us a lot on our beer at the moment,’ he states.
  • People have been complimenting her on her new toned look and Fiona is already feeling the many physical benefits of being in better shape.
1.1Praise (something) politely: the manager was heard to compliment the other team’s good play
More example sentences
  • I have heard tourists compliment it and couldn't help but feel proud.
  • It seriously means a lot to me to hear you compliment my writing so much.
  • A mere two saves for the game shows the already awesome defence that the team has to compliment the established offence.
praise, sing the praises of, heap praise on, pay tribute to, speak highly/well of, flatter, say nice things about, express admiration for, wax lyrical about, make much of, congratulate, commend, acclaim, pat on the back, take one's hat off to, throw bouquets at, applaud, salute, honour, eulogize, extol
British informal big someone/something up
North American informal ballyhoo
dated cry someone/something up, crack someone/something up
archaic emblazon
1.2 (compliment someone with) archaic Present someone with (something) as a mark of courtesy: Prince George expected to be complimented with a seat in the royal coach


Compliment (together with complimentary) is quite different in meaning from complement (and complementary). See complement (usage).



compliments of the season

Used as a seasonal greeting at Christmas or the New Year.
Example sentences
  • She thanked everyone for providing such lovely entertainment and wished everyone the compliments of the season.
  • I stood in the queue, paid this so-called tax and received a small envelope containing compliments of the season from friends in Johannesburg.
  • Robyn and I wish you all in Richmond Valley the compliments of the season.

pay one's compliments

Send or express formal greetings: a gentleman stopped, eager to pay his compliments
More example sentences
  • A sizable crowd turned out in glorious weather conditions to pay their compliments to the small band of volunteers who had seen the six-year project bear fruit.
  • When the gun carriage itself comes past we will present arms to pay our compliments to the Queen Mother and other members of the Royal Family travelling behind the coffin.

return the compliment

Give a compliment in return for another.
Example sentences
  • Paul compliments me on my dancing and I return the compliment: ‘well, that was a great groove.’
3.1Retaliate or respond in kind: she eyed me warily, and I returned the compliment
More example sentences
  • There's no chance of them doing me any favours, so I have every intention of returning the compliment if I get the chance.
  • At the welcome party local schoolchildren performed a concert much to the appreciation of the Bolivians, who in turn returned the compliment by performing a number of musical pieces.
  • I was invited to their school and I returned the compliment by inviting them to the Commons.

with one's compliments

Used to express the fact that what one is giving is free: all drinks will be supplied with our compliments
More example sentences
  • Please accept this free copy of The Word Among Us magazine with my compliments.
  • We were very sorry to hear about the theft and we were happy to give them a replacement with our compliments and hope that they have a very merry Christmas.
  • The winner will receive, with our compliments, an incredible week-long holiday in a luxury villa in sunkissed Marbella.


Mid 17th century: from French compliment (noun), complimenter (verb), from Italian complimento 'fulfilment of the requirements of courtesy', from Latin complementum 'completion, fulfilment' (reflected in the earlier English spelling complement, gradually replaced by the French form between 1655 and 1715).

  • complete from Late Middle English:

    Complete comes from Latin complere ‘fill up, finish, fulfil’. This is also the source of comply (late 16th century) originally to fulfil an obligation; and of compliment (mid 17th century) from Italian complimento ‘fulfilment of the requirements of courtesy’; and its confusing partner complement (Late Middle English), something which contributes additional or contrasting features.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: com|pli|ment

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