com·​pla·​cent | \ kəm-ˈplā-sᵊnt \

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

Luis Carlos de la Lombana is an amiable straight shooter as the family doctor, and Alfonso Rey does nicely as the colonel’s cruelly complacent slob of a lawyer. Laura Collins-hughes, New York Times, "Review: Betting on a Rooster in ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’," 2 Apr. 2018 Some will see the polls and fundraising numbers as reason for alarm, while others see them as a wake-up call to voters who are being too complacent going into midterms. Benjamin Brown, Fox News, "Ted Cruz, Beto O'Rourke in nation's most expensive Senate race; reports," 19 July 2018 On inflation, investors may have become too complacent. Richard Barley, WSJ, "Investors Have Become Too Complacent About Inflation," 11 July 2018 Comparing her words to that of Roseanne Barr, a complacent bigoted, is like comparing apples to rotting fruit. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "Samantha Bee may have apologized but Kathy Griffin, Sally Field, other Hollywood liberals standing by her," 1 June 2018 Sara Walker, chief economist and senior portfolio manager for Associated Bank, said days like Monday are a warning to investors not to become complacent about the workings of the stock market, which was strong in 2017. Paul Gores, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Economists say 'correction' won't stop ongoing bull market," 5 Feb. 2018 The Uruguayan forward was uncharacteristically complacent in front of goal in his first World Cup game of the summer, provoking a great deal of criticism after the game., "Uruguayan Defender Guillermo Varela Claims to Play with Luis Suarez at Barcelona Would be a 'Dream'," 20 June 2018 Edwards is pleased, but not complacent, that well-known athletes including LeBron James and Richard Sherman are back in the social-justice arena. Jerry Brewer,, "In a time of chaos, 1968 was a breakout year for black athletes," 28 May 2018 MilkWood chef Glenn Dougan isn't one to be complacent in his work. Nancy Miller, The Courier-Journal, "Constantly evolving MilkWood helps shape Louisville's food scene," 19 June 2018

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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Last Updated

13 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for complacent

The first known use of complacent was in 1760

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More Definitions for complacent



English Language Learners Definition of complacent

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


com·​pla·​cent | \ kəm-ˈplā-sᵊnt \

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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Comments on complacent

What made you want to look up complacent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to gather or build up little by little

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