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Complete vs. Initiate: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
Complete means to finish a task fully, whereas initiate means to begin or start something.

Key Differences

Complete is the act of finishing or bringing something to an end, fulfilling all necessary requirements. To initiate, however, is to begin something, to set processes in motion. Completing a task implies it has reached its endpoint, while initiating suggests it is at the starting phase.
Initiating a project involves establishing objectives and planning the first steps; completing involves ensuring these objectives are met and the project is finished. Initiating sets the stage for action, while completing is about concluding that action. Each project initiated must eventually be completed, marking the full cycle of an endeavor.
One might initiate a new habit or routine, taking the first steps towards change, while completing a habit loop signifies that the routine has become a natural part of one's life. Initiating is about the courage to start, whereas completing is about the perseverance to carry through.
An author initiates a book by outlining chapters and themes; the book is completed when the final draft is ready for publication. The process of initiation is filled with potential and possibilities, while completion is a testament to the effort and work invested.
Both initiation and completion are crucial in any domain; without initiation, there would be no progress, and without completion, there would be no satisfaction of achievement. A balance of both is essential: initiating new ideas and completing them is the rhythm of productivity and success.

Comparison Chart


Bringing to a state of totality
Beginning or starting something

Temporal Stage

End phase
Initial phase


Conclusion and fulfillment
Introduction and outset

Associated Action

Finishing touches
Setting up or launching

Grammatical Forms

Can be an adjective or verb
Primarily a verb

Complete and Initiate Definitions


Entirely finished.
She completed the marathon, exhausted but triumphant.


To begin.
She will initiate the meeting at noon.


Having all parts.
The puzzle is complete with every piece in place.


To introduce to a new field.
The mentor will initiate the intern to the work culture.


Absolute; total.
His joy was complete when he heard the news.


To admit someone into membership.
The society initiates new members with a ceremony.


To fulfill.
He completed his promise by returning home.


To cause the beginning.
Their discussion initiated a new research topic.


To make whole.
The final chapter completes the story.


To start a process.
The scientist initiated a series of experiments.


Having all necessary or normal parts, components, or steps; entire
A complete medical history.
A complete set of dishes.


To set going by taking the first step; begin
Initiated trade with developing nations.


To introduce to a new field, interest, skill, or activity
Initiated the students into the world of opera.


What does initiate mean?

Initiate means to start something or begin a process.

Can initiate and complete be used interchangeably?

No, they refer to different stages of a process.

Can you initiate without completing?

Yes, it's possible to start something and not finish it.

What is a synonym for complete?

Finished, entire, or whole are synonyms.

Is completion always the goal of initiation?

Typically, yes, most initiated processes aim for completion.

What does complete mean?

Complete means to finish something fully or make it whole.

Can you complete something without initiating it?

No, something must be initiated before it can be completed.

Is complete an adjective?

Complete can be both an adjective and a verb.

What's an example of complete as an adjective?

"The collection is complete."

What is a synonym for initiate?

Begin, start, or launch are synonyms.

Is initiate a noun?

Initiate can be a verb or a noun when referring to a person who has been initiated.

What does it mean to initiate a change?

It means to start or cause a change to begin.

Can a person be an initiate?

Yes, when they are new to a particular group or activity.

What does it mean to complete someone?

It typically means to perfect or complement them.

Does complete always imply perfection?

Not always; it can simply mean that nothing has been left undone.

Can initiate imply innovation?

Yes, initiating often involves introducing new ideas or methods.

What's an example of initiate as a noun?

"He is an initiate in the fraternity."

How do you use complete in a sentence?

"She completed her degree this year."

How do you use initiate in a sentence?

"They will initiate the project next week."

Can a person be described as complete?

Yes, describing someone as complete means they lack nothing.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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