Definition of complain in US English:



  • 1with object Express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event.

    ‘local authorities complained that they lacked sufficient resources’
    no object ‘“You never listen to me,” Larry complained’
    no object ‘we all complained bitterly about the food’
    • ‘Critics have also complained bitterly that the board failed to release financial records despite promises to do so.’
    • ‘Authors complain loud enough when their publishers don't do it.’
    • ‘Indeed, graduates have complained bitterly about a lack of school identity and diversity.’
    • ‘A rail passenger travelling from Montreal to New York City complained to the guard that his seat was lumpy.’
    • ‘The pensioner complained to the President about a lack of plumbing in her village.’
    • ‘In the late 1970s, even critics complained about the shortage of actresses in major roles.’
    • ‘The young have complained to me that the trouble with our leadership is that when they explain, it insults their intelligence.’
    • ‘McClelland put air conditioning in a local church, and the pastor never complained about the noise again.’
    • ‘He complained to the local authority about the noises and smells from his neighbour's farm.’
    • ‘Part of this comes from her old-fashioned view that one does not complain about such annoyances.’
    • ‘Customers have been complaining for years about the broken, ailing equipment and leisure officials are pleading for more visitors.’
    • ‘I imagine the police coming when a neighbor complains about the smell from the drains.’
    • ‘In Mumbai restaurants, customers were complaining about the quality of onions they were being served.’
    • ‘Still, he is not complaining too loudly.’
    • ‘She said local people had complained bitterly about the lack of notice for the plan to extend the deadline by a year.’
    • ‘This lawlessness had led locals to hold protest marches and complain about the lack of action by police.’
    • ‘Approaching my last year and a half, I was given bad dates to register until I finally got really fed up and complained to the dean.’
    • ‘People always complain about the lack of explanation.’
    • ‘Mrs Owen complained to an attendant but was dissatisfied with the response.’
    • ‘If I were a cyclist, I'd be complaining to the local council.’
    protest, grumble, moan, whine, bleat, carp, cavil, lodge a complaint, make a complaint, make a fuss
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    1. 1.1complain ofno object State that one is suffering from (a pain or other symptom of illness)
      ‘her husband began to complain of headaches’
      • ‘She suffered a cut to her ankle and also complained of a whiplash-like pain.’
      • ‘He was taken to Bury General Hospital complaining of severe chest pains, but later died.’
      • ‘My parents seemed to be fully awake and were not complaining of any aches and pains, to my surprise.’
      • ‘He was re-admitted to hospital the following month after complaining of severe pain in his leg.’
      • ‘So, when a child complains of back pain, one has to act fast and go for a thorough investigation.’
      • ‘He complained of chest pain and was rushed to the hospital with an oxygen mask.’
      • ‘When one of the rescue party complains of chest pains, the Air Corps lift him from one of the boats.’
      • ‘When I consider it, I can't think of the last time someone complained of illness in front of me.’
      • ‘The children who reported back pain also complained of abdominal pain, headaches and sore throats.’
      • ‘He first visited his doctor in April 2001 complaining of a pain in his knee.’
      • ‘With no real operation having taken place, the patient does not feel any pain, complains of no scars, and can walk home immediately afterwards.’
      • ‘A week after the wedding the bride's mother complains of pains in her stomach.’
      • ‘But he often complained of aches and pains and did look like he was slowing down.’
      • ‘He complained of pain in his arm and it was only then doctors realised both of them had broken left arms.’
      • ‘When the carers who come in every morning tried to get him to sit up, he complained of pain in his back.’
      • ‘A patient who complains of recurrent back pain is evaluated to rule out a definitive cause.’
      • ‘She had complained of severe abdominal pain and he carried out an examination with her consent.’
      • ‘He just complained of chest pains and the lifeguard suggested we take him to hospital.’
      • ‘He was later released, but over the next couple of days wasn't himself and complained of chest pains.’
      • ‘She said she asked for an eye test and agreed to allow him to look at her back after she complained of back pain.’
    2. 1.2no object State a grievance.
      ‘they complained to the French government’
    3. 1.3literary no object Make a mournful sound.
      ‘let the warbling flute complain’
    4. 1.4no object (of a structure or mechanism) groan or creak under strain.
      • ‘As if to torment them further, the steps creaked, complaining with each step they made loud enough to wake the dead.’
      • ‘There, I sat and waited, the room gently spinning, my sinuses groaning, my throat complaining, my heart beating at mousepace.’
      • ‘I yelled while the muscles on my body were complaining with great strain.’
      • ‘After two years of being asked to do nothing more than growl and yip, my voice-box complained at the strain of speech.’
      squeak, groan, grate
      View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Old French complaindre, from medieval Latin complangere ‘bewail’, from Latin com- (expressing intensive force) + plangere ‘to lament’.