See also: complexión and complex ion

English

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Alternative forms

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Etymology

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From Middle English complexion (temperament), from Old French complexion (French complexion), from Medieval Latin complexiō (complexion, constitution), from complector, past participle complexus (to entwine, encompass).

Pronunciation

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Noun

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complexion (plural complexions)

  1. The quality, colour, or appearance of the skin on the face.
    a rugged complexion
    a sunburnt complexion
    • c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene i]:
      Prince of Morocco: Mislike me not for my complexion, / The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun, / To whom I am a neighbour, and near bred. []
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “Asking for an Invitation”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume III, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 28:
      "I shall do nothing for the next week but study my costume and complexion," said she. "Ethel and myself will consider our conquests as proper compliments to your kindness."
    • 1899 February, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, volume CLXV, number M, New York, N.Y.: The Leonard Scott Publishing Company, [], →OCLC, part I, page 193:
      The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.
    • 1903 December 26, A[rthur] Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”, in The Return of Sherlock Holmes, New York, N.Y.: McClure, Phillips & Co., published February 1905, →OCLC:
      “Yes, Mr. Holmes, I teach music.”
      “In the country, I presume, from your complexion.”
      “Yes, sir, near Farnham, on the borders of Surrey.”
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      This new-comer was a man who in any company would have seemed striking. In complexion fair, and with blue or gray eyes, he was tall as any Viking, as broad in the shoulder.
    • 1961 November 10, Joseph Heller, “The Soldier in White”, in Catch-22 [], New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, →OCLC, page 171:
      Nurse Cramer had a cute nose and a radiant, blooming complexion dotted with fetching sprays of adorable freckles that Yossarian detested.
  2. (figuratively) The outward appearance of something.
    • 1910, Bernard Capes, Why Did He Do It?, page 207:
      It was a little unfortunate that the fib unfibbed gave their consultations something the complexion of that close understanding which exists between penitent and confessor.
  3. Outlook, attitude, or point of view.
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part I (A Voyage to Lilliput):
      That minister was galbet, or admiral of the realm, very much in his master’s confidence, and a person well versed in affairs, but of a morose and sour complexion.
    • 1844, E. A. Poe, Marginalia:
      But the purely marginal jottings, done with no eye to the Memorandum Book, have a distinct complexion, and not only a distinct purpose, but none at all; this it is which imparts to them a value.
  4. (obsolete, medicine) The combination of humours making up one's physiological "temperament", being either hot or cold, and moist or dry.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book III, Canto X”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC:
      Ne ever is he wont on ought to feed / But todes and frogs, his pasture poysonous, / Which in his cold complexion doe breed / A filthy blood []
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, volumes (please specify |volume=I to VI), London: A[ndrew] Millar, [], →OCLC:
      “Indeed, sir,” answered the lady, with some warmth, “I cannot think there is anything easier than to cheat an old woman with a profession of love, when her complexion is amorous; and, though she is my aunt, I must say there never was a more liquorish one than her ladyship. []
  5. (loanword, especially in scientific works translated from German) An arrangement.
    • 1909, Ludwig Boltzmann, translated by Kim Sharp and Franz Matschinsky
      Second there is the level at which the energy or velocity components of each molecule are specified. He calls this a Komplexion, which we translate literally as complexion.

Synonyms

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Translations

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Verb

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complexion (third-person singular simple present complexions, present participle complexioning, simple past and past participle complexioned)

  1. (transitive) To give a colour to.
    • 2003, Leland Krauth, Mark Twain & Company: Six Literary Relations, page 118:
      From the pale refinement of her genteel heroine to the sallow complexioning of poor white trash, Stowe colors her narrative with the hues of the body.

Further reading

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French

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Etymology

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Learned borrowing from Latin complexiōnem.

Pronunciation

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Noun

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complexion f (plural complexions)

  1. complexion
    Synonyms: tempérament, constitution

Further reading

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Old French

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Etymology

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First known attestation circa 1120,[1] a learned borrowing from Latin complexiō.

Noun

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complexion oblique singularf (oblique plural complexions, nominative singular complexion, nominative plural complexions)

  1. (medicine) complexion (combination of humours making up one's physiological "temperament")

References

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  1. ^ Etymology and history of complexion”, in Trésor de la langue française informatisé [Digitized Treasury of the French Language], 2012.