Meaning of COMPLEX in English

I. (ˈ)käm|pleks, kəmˈp- transitive verb

( -ed/-ing/-es )

Etymology: Latin complexus, past participle of complecti

1. : to make complex or into a complex

a complexing problem

2. : chelate II

II. adjective

( sometimes -er/-est )

Etymology: Latin complexus, past participle of complecti to entwine around, embrace, from com- + plectere to braid — more at ply


a. : composed of two or more separable or analyzable items, parts, constituents, or symbols : composite — opposed to simple

the complex sign “2 × 5.10” — A.J.Ayer

the sea is a complex mixture of chemicals — W.H.Dowdeswell


(1) of a word : having a bound form as one or both of its immediate constituents

unmanly is a complex word

— contrasted with compound, simple

(2) of a sentence : consisting of a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses

make hay while the sun shines is a complex sentence

— contrasted with compound, simple


a. : having many varied interrelated parts, patterns, or elements and consequently hard to understand fully

a complex camera with many attachments

a complex industrial process

complex tissue

b. : marked by an involvement of many parts, aspects, details, notions, and necessitating earnest study or examination to understand or cope with

an extremely complex industrial and commercial enterprise far removed from the simplicities of farming — American Guide Series: California

movements as vast and complex as the migration of peoples — Lewis Mumford

a complex mass of diverse laws and customs, written and unwritten — H.O.Taylor

3. : formed by union of simpler substances (as compounds or ions) — used of salts, ions, and other chemical combinations

a complex protein


complicated , intricate , knotty , involved : complex stresses the fact of combining or folding together various parts and suggests that considerable study, knowledge, or experience is needed for comprehension or operation

all legal definitions are highly complex — C.K.Ogden & I.A.Richards

the complex details of naval, ground, and air activities — F.D.Roosevelt

a complex apparatus of washers, scales, slicers, diffusion tanks, purifiers, filter presses, evaporators, vacuum pans, centrifugal machines, and driers — American Guide Series: California

complicated may heighten notions of difficulty in understanding

business so big and complicated that neither the propertied class nor the working class could understand it — G.B.Shaw

intricate suggests difficulty of understanding or appreciating quickly because of perplexing interconnecting, interweaving, or interacting of parts

the economic situation is so complex, so intricate in the interdependence of delicately balanced factors — John Dewey

complex in themselves, and intricate in their interaction — H.O.Taylor

knotty suggests so much perplexity, difficulty, or entanglement that solution or understanding is improbable

many knotty problems … that it will require the combined resources of the linguist, the logician, the psychologist, and the critical philosopher to clear up for us — Edward Sapir

your question … is a knotty one, and such as, had I the wisdom of Solomon, I should be puzzled to answer — William Cowper

involved indicates an intertwining such that some parts return or seem to return upon themselves, as in certain difficult knots, making unraveling or understanding very hard

public issues are so large and so involved that it is only a few who can hope to have any adequate comprehension of them — G.L.Dickinson

III. ˈkämˌpleks also ˈ ̷ ̷ˈ ̷ ̷ sometimes  ̷ ̷ˈ ̷ ̷ noun

( -es )

Etymology: Latin complexus surrounding, embrace, from complexus, past participle of complecti

1. : an association of related things often in intricate combination: as

a. : a group of culture traits relating to a single activity (as hunting, maize growing, pottery making), process (as the use of flint, construction of megalithic monuments), or unit of culture (as Folsom, neo-Eskimo) : an aggregate of artifacts — called also culture complex, trait-complex


[German komplex, from Latin complexus ]

: a system of repressed or suppressed desires and memories that exerts a dominating influence upon the personality ; broadly : exaggerated reaction (as of fear or sensitiveness) to some subject or situation

she has always had a complex about bugs

c. : a group of obviously related units (as of species) of which the degree and nature of the relationship is imperfectly known


(1) : a haploid chromosome set containing a specified set of genes arranged in a particular order

(2) : a group of chromosomes that always pass together in meiosis to one daughter cell — compare genome

e. : a group of kinds of organisms (as clones, strains, or varieties) showing common adaptation of a particular kind, usually to a specialized environment

2. : a conjunction of varied contributing or interacting factors, elements, or qualities: as

a. : a complex substance (as a coordination compound, an ion containing several atoms, or an adsorption compound)

molecular complexes

enzyme-substrate complex

— usually distinguished from mixture

b. : an assemblage of different rocks having structural relations intricately involved

the Archean complex

c. : a complex word — contrasted with compound, simplex

d. : the sum of factors (as symptoms and lesions) characteristic of a disease

symptom complex

primary tuberculous complex

Synonyms: see system

IV. adjective

1. : of, concerned with, being, or containing complex numbers

a complex root

complex analysis

2. of wine : having a multiplicity of flavors or aromas

• complexity noun

V. noun

: a building or group of buildings housing related units

an apartment complex

a sports complex

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.