adj. com·plet·er, com·plet·est
1. Having all necessary or normal parts, components, or steps; entire: a complete medical history; a complete set of dishes.
2. Botany Having all principal parts, namely, the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistil or pistils. Used of a flower.
3. Having come to an end; concluded: The renovation of the kitchen is complete.
a. Absolute; thorough: complete control; a complete mystery.
b. Accomplished; consummate: a complete musician.
5. Football Caught in bounds by a receiver: a complete pass.
tr.v. com·plet·ed, com·plet·ing, com·pletes
1. To bring to a finish or an end: She has completed her studies.
2. To make whole, with all necessary elements or parts: A second child would complete their family. Fill in the blanks to complete the form.
3. Football To throw (a forward pass) that is caught in bounds by a receiver.
[Middle English complet, from Latin complētus, past participle of complēre, to fill out : com-, intensive pref.; see COM- + plēre, to fill; see pelə-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: complete, finish, close, end, conclude, terminate
These verbs mean to bring to a natural or proper stopping point. Complete and finish suggest the final stage in an undertaking: "Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime" (Reinhold Niebuhr). "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job" (Winston S. Churchill).
Close and end both imply bringing something ongoing to a conclusion: The band closed the concert with an encore. We ended the meal with fruit and cheese. End can also mean putting a stop to something, often with finality: "Many advocates say [putting] laptops in schools is a promising way to end the digital divide between the races" (Char Simons). "It left him more exposed than ever, forcing him to end the career he loved" (Molly Worthen).
Conclude is more formal than close and end: The author concluded the article by restating the major points. Terminate suggests reaching an established limit: The playing of the national anthem terminated the station's broadcast for the night. It also indicates the dissolution of a formal arrangement: The firm terminated my contract yesterday.
Usage Note: Although complete is often held to be an absolute term like perfect or chief, and supposedly not subject to comparison, it is often modified by words like more and less in standard usage. As far back as 1965, a majority of the Usage Panel accepted the example His book is the most complete treatment of the subject. See Usage Note at absolute.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.