com·​pla·​cent | \ kəm-ˈplā-sᵊnt How to pronounce complacent (audio) \

Definition of complacent

1 : marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies : marked by complacency : self-satisfied a complacent smile
2 : complaisant sense 1 complacent flattery

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Other Words from complacent

complacently adverb

Complaisant or Complacent?

The homophones complaisant and complacent are often confused - and no wonder. Not only do they look and sound alike, but they also both derive ultimately from Latin complacēre, meaning "to please greatly." Complacent usually means "self-satisfied" or "unconcerned," but it also shares with complaisant the sense of "marked by an inclination to please or oblige." This sense of complacent is an old one, but that hasn't kept language critics from labeling it as an error - and on the whole, modern writers do prefer complaisant for this meaning. Conversely, complaisant is sometimes mistakenly used in contexts such as "complaisant about injustices," where complacent, with its sense of "marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies," should go. One aid is to remember that with the preposition "about," you probably want complacent.

Examples of complacent in a Sentence

… I gazed at my mother's poised, beautiful profile as her face turned from side to side, calm or complacent, accepting what the route offered. — Donald Hall, Atlantic, October 1996 Mr. Davis organized his second great quintet in the mid-60's, but by then jazz had taken a new turn and many felt he had become passé, a complacent peacock. — Gary Giddins, New York Times Book Review, 15 Oct. 1989 … he hopes to break through the reader's complacent indifference, make him aware of his predicament, and force him to take sides. — Monroe K. Spears, American Ambitions, 1987 Lord Lathkill … was so completely unostentatious, so very willing to pay all the attention to me, and yet so subtly complacent, so unquestionably sure of his position. — D. H. Lawrence, The Complete Short Stories Volume III, (1922) 1981 The strong economy has made people complacent. We have grown too complacent over the years. We can't afford to be complacent about illiteracy.
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Recent Examples on the Web Even those of us who are vaccinated should not be complacent about this disease. Star Tribune, 27 May 2021 The current success, however, doesn’t mean that Israel should be complacent about the far more potent threat posed by Hezbollah’s arsenal. Felicia Schwartz, WSJ, 16 May 2021 Weighing these considerations, my take is that a repeat of the 1960s and 1970s is unlikely, but investors should not be complacent about the risk of higher inflation. Nick Sargen, Forbes, 7 May 2021 But even before Emergent launched into Covid-19 vaccine production, a major client charged that the firm was too complacent about mistakes. New York Times, 6 Apr. 2021 A month ago, citizens and the Indian government were complacent enough to not mandate masks, nor ban large gatherings. Madhushree Ghosh, Longreads, 12 May 2021 The coronavirus thrives off of complacent politicians. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 9 May 2021 Despite the successful splashdown Sunday, NASA and SpaceX can’t get complacent or ahead of themselves, Lueders said. Washington Post, 2 May 2021 Swartzberg is worried that people are getting complacent, especially in the months leading up to — eventual — pediatric vaccines. Annie Vainshtein, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'complacent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of complacent

1760, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for complacent

Latin complacent-, complacens, present participle of complacēre to please greatly, from com- + placēre to please — more at please

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Learn More about complacent

Time Traveler for complacent

Time Traveler

The first known use of complacent was in 1760

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Statistics for complacent

Last Updated

6 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Complacent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for complacent



English Language Learners Definition of complacent

disapproving : satisfied with how things are and not wanting to change them


com·​pla·​cent | \ kəm-ˈplā-sᵊnt How to pronounce complacent (audio) \

Kids Definition of complacent

: feeling or showing satisfaction and lack of worry or caution His team became complacent in the second half and lost the game.


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