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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web From investing in private credit to tax loss harvesting to converting to a more sustainable stock portfolio, the top 1% is not complacent during the market meltdown. Lucy Brewster, Fortune, 14 July 2022 Those leaders who took it upon themselves to take action and truly re-examine their unique people strategies are going to sit much prettier than their complacent counterparts. Gary Drenik, Forbes, 16 June 2022 That policing strategy worked wonders in New York and other cities in the 1990s and 2000s, but progressives dismissed it as crime rates fell and voters became complacent. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 8 June 2022 Tranchita and boys’ coach Shawn Wallace take pride in their athletes not getting complacent and continuing the Tigers’ winning tradition. Joseph Pohoryles,, 29 May 2022 But for many, like Burke, the hope is data will make their case stronger—in part to those in the employer community that remain complacent on the issue. Erika Fry, Fortune, 4 May 2022 And Democrats, no longer confident that an unserious huckster was destined to lose, were not at all complacent. Jill Filipovic, CNN, 26 Apr. 2022 Still, the talent is there, and the audacious production concept – approved, we are pointedly told, by the Stone and Edwards estates – is never complacent. Bob Verini, Variety, 6 June 2022 As the show prepares for Season 3, Barrymore does not want to get complacent. Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 5 May 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of complacent was in 1760

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Last Updated

24 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Complacent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for complacent


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on complacent

Nglish: Translation of complacent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of complacent for Arabic Speakers


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