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What does compliment mean in the following passage from Moby-Dick:

I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies—Take some one of your own size; don’t pommel me! No, ye’ve knocked me down, and I am up again; but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags! I have no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!

I looked up the word in some dictionaries, but none of them seem to be very helpful. Methinks, for one, that compliment here is not a misspelling of complement. What y'all think?

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Ahab’s compliments to ye

It is correct.

In the dictionary you link to, it says, "An expression of praise, congratulation, or respect." This is exactly right in this context. You could replace "compliments" with "respects".

In modern parlance, we might say, "Ahab pays his respects" or "Ahab sends his regards". (I'm assuming that the speaker has arrived with a message from Ahab).

Here are examples of the usage


Note

Please say who is speaking, to whom, and why when quoting dialog.

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