Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Complement and Supplement

Complement and supplement are words that refer to adding something extra to enhance an item or activity.  There is a difference to the manner in which they improve or assist.  Basically something that complements something else goes well with that item.  It does not add into or combine with the item.  It complements it because it goes well alongside the item in some way.  It is able to go well with another object or activity.  The complementary item completes something making it better.  A supplement on the other hand, is an additional or extra element.  It is an addition to something to improve it in some way.  A supplement would improve or add value to another item by combining with it as an additional element.  Therefore both these words help improve the quality or function of something, but in different ways.

What Does Complement Mean?

Complement means to complete something by adding to an item.  The complementary addition does not change the original item, but works alongside it to add value or enhance the original article.  A beautiful suit for example, may be complemented by adding a scarf or a tie.  The original suit is not changed in any way by the addition of the scarf.   If something is used to complement another object it is brought in to show the quality or value of the item that it complements.  It often refers to two items that go well together like cheese and wine for example.  Complementary situations occur in all walks of life and industries.  The medical field, in mathematics and the food industry and even in the artistic world.  The term complement is used to describe two items that go well together.  It should be noted that compliment and complement are not the same thing.  It is easy to confuse the two words because they are so similar.  A compliment is a flattering comment about someone’s attire, ability or any other facet of their lives. 

What is Supplement?

Supplement means something extra is added to improve or make an activity or object better.  For example, a dietary supplement adds something extra to the food value in a diet.  The supplement may be noted on the contents of the diet, but it is mixed into the dietary formula to add the value.  A newspaper or magazine may run a supplement to a particular edition to add value to the paper at that time.  It could be seasonal, or it could be for a particular topic to advertise or describe some special event.  Sometimes a part time job is taken to supplement or add to an income.  The supplement therefore adds to something that already exists.  The supplement becomes part of the original article or activity.  

How do items that Complement and Supplement appear in our daily lives?


Complementary food flavors enhance each other or complement the taste.  Cheese and wine are said to be complementary.  They go together.  Custard or cream complements most desert dishes.  However, curry powder is unlikely to complement a sweet apple pie. Complement in the food world means to add something extra that makes the food more enjoyable.  A supplement, in the food industry, adds an extra element to the food product.  The supplement would usually be added into the food and become part of the food value.  Supplements may be in the form of added vitamins or minerals that are included in the diet to supplement the food.  They are added in as an extra component.  

Baby feeding often relies on supplements especially if the mother is not able to breast feed the infant.  A supplementary breast milk, in powdered form, can be mixed and used to feed the baby.  Complementary baby feeding is introducing some solid foods at a young age.  This is the addition of baby cereals or mixed veg mashed and ready to add to the daily diet.


Complementary genes are two genes that interact their qualities and produce new qualities.  Both of these genes complement their genetic combination and interact.  Supplementary genes are two genes that interact to produce a characteristic together.  One gene can produce a characteristic while the other can only add to it or supplement the genetics.

In Mathematics:

Mathematically, when it comes to measuring angles of triangles, there are complementary measures that add up to 900 and supplementary angles that add up to 180o..  The measures are categories of angles.

In goods description:

In the world of business and economics complementary goods work together to produce a product range or products that work together.  An example of this is a car and the petrol to run the car.  The petrol is there to complement the running of the car.  An example of a supplementary relationship would be the event of petrol price rising.  The rise in price affects the cost of petrol and the running of the car.  The supplementary element in business is a negative element.  The rise in the petrol price caused a negative effect on both the car sales and the petrol sales to run the cars.

In color composition:

Drawing a color wheel is an important part of studying art and design. There is an order of colors.  Two colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel are said to be complementary colors.  The go well together.  They do not mix well.  The colors that are next to each other on the color wheel are supplementary colors.  They are the colors that fall between the prime colors and mix well together. 

In Fashion:

Various fashion items complement each other as they offset an item of clothing in a different way setting a trend.  A scarf for example can complement an item as well as smart shoes and a bag.  Supplementary fashion is about style and how fabrics, trends and style have integrated the fashion world.

Complement Vs. Supplement: Comparison Chart

Summary:  Bullet Points Summarizing the Whole Article

  • Complementary and supplementary items work together, but not in exactly the same way.  One is adding to a product on a side by side style while the other is added to the product so together as one they improve the original performance.
  • In the food industry complement means to accompany a food item and add flavor or value to the food prepared.  The supplement is incorporated into the food product and by joining with the original item the supplementary improves the original item.
  • In the business arena a complementary product works side by side with another product.  For example a car and petrol are complementary because they work side by side.  A supplementary product is affected in a negative way by a similar change in product.  The example of petrol prices increasing is the supplementary factor that has a negative effect on the sale of petrol and he price of cars.
  • Complementary and supplementary genes have different roles to play in the medical world.  Complementary genes work side by side and work together to produce a trait or characteristic.  Supplementary genes work together but can also work individually to produce a characteristic.
  • Complementary appears in the world of fashion with different items that work together like a scarf or hat and gloves even certain fabrics and trims are complementary of each other.
  • Complementary colors on the color wheel are interesting pairs of colors found through the different colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.  

Complementary and supplementary play an important role in many different aspects of daily living.  They are not used side by side because, complementary is used to add to the overall presentation of a product or item or even an action.  While supplementary is used in conjunction with another item and it is part of that item.  

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References :

[0]Baker Jeni. 10 Nov. 2011. www.incolororder.com/The art of choosing colors. Powered by Blogger.

[1]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/4278/35451070776_8781f1018b_b.jpg

[2]Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietary_supplement#/media/File:VitaminSupplementPills.jpg

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