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 Mr Altmaier may have unwittingly put his finger on a key point—that everyone with influence over the firm, from board members to auditors and regulators, seems to have been complacent. The Economist, "The demise of a Wunderkind How Wirecard fooled most of the people all of the time," 25 June 2020 The outbreak appears to be the result of shelter-in-place restrictions being loosened in late May paired with Memorial Day weekend and people becoming more complacent about wearing masks and other personal protective equipment, Garbarino said. Alejandro Serrano,, "Coronavirus: ‘First wave’ of post-reopening cases found at Marin waste company, official says," 22 June 2020 Investors may have become too complacent, expecting the Fed and Congress to keep coming to the rescue with ever more stimulus. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "A new tech bubble is inflating. Will it blow up?," 18 June 2020 But on Wednesday, some city officials and health experts readily linked the worsening numbers to businesses reopening and people growing more complacent with social distancing. USA TODAY, "Cincinnati Zoo, Lollapalooza, Glacier National Park: News from around our 50 states," 11 June 2020 Saccocia of Boston Private said there was a danger Washington would get complacent and pull support before all workers were back on their feet. Larry Edelman,, "‘It’s certainly a shocker’: Key takeaways from today’s jobs report," 5 June 2020 While Japan has suffered far fewer coronavirus infections and deaths than any of its Group of Seven peers, Abe’s handling of the outbreak has reinforced concerns that his government has grown complacent after seven years in power. Isabel Reynolds,, "Japan Tentatively Begins to Open Up After Emergency Ends," 1 June 2020 Many Democratic incumbents were complacent from years of running unopposed and had done little to raise money or maintain a political organization in their states and districts. Bruce Bartlett, The New Republic, "How the Democrats Should Imitate the Republican Party," 1 June 2020 But Box warned that one negative test result should not leave a person complacent. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, "Want a coronavirus test? Anyone can get one now, state says. Here's how.," 12 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for complacent

Time Traveler

The first known use of complacent was in 1760

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Statistics for complacent

Last Updated

29 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Complacent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for complacent


How to pronounce complacent (audio)

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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