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

Don’t worry about the Americans getting complacent. Peter Schmuck,, "Schmuck: U.S. Women's World Cup journey has even captured the imagination of this non-soccer fan," 7 July 2019 The complacent bros who populate Katherine’s writers’ room – headed by a monologue writer named Tom (Reid Scott) – live in a post-Harvard Lampoon playpen of self-amused pomposity and entitlement. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "Review: Thompson, Kaling drive ‘Late Night’ with brilliant chemistry," 14 June 2019 For Snyder these are the true inspirations for Putin’s aggressive politics, and Ilyich and Surkov are the masterminds behind the global backlash against complacent liberal visions of modernization. Adam Tooze, The New York Review of Books, "Democracy and Its Discontents," 6 June 2019 However, some market observers say that investors shouldn’t get complacent. Gunjan Banerji, WSJ, "Calm Blankets Markets From Stocks to Bonds, Even as Risks Remain," 22 Feb. 2019 This was obviously true in 2016, and Facebook executives were initially complacent before finally moving to clamp down. Vincent Carroll, The Denver Post, "Carroll: Put down your pitchforks and get real about Big Tech’s trade-offs," 21 June 2019 My work revolves around the ideas of decolonization of knowledge and authority, by creating designs that allow users to reshape their role in society without being complacent about how the current systems place them. Vogue, "19 FIT, Pratt, and Parsons 2019 Graduates on Their Collections and the Future of Fashion," 22 May 2019 Bye-bye harassment: Musicians take a stand for festival safety Tired of complacent attitudes at shows, millennial artists bolstered by #MeToo are stepping up with harassment solutions for festivals like Coachella. Christian Science Monitor, "The Culture | Music," 7 June 2019 One element in the seemingly complacent reaction of international financiers to the February Revolution was a desire to help the liberal reformers. Andrew Stuttaford, WSJ, "‘Bankers and Bolsheviks’ Review: The Red Ink of Red October," 22 Jan. 2019

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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Statistics for complacent

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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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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).


something desired as essential

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