com·​plai·​sant kəm-ˈplā-sᵊnt How to pronounce complaisant (audio)
: marked by an inclination to please or oblige
: tending to consent to others' wishes
complaisantly adverb

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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.

Choose the Right Synonym for complaisant

amiable, good-natured, obliging, complaisant mean having the desire or disposition to please.

amiable implies having qualities that make one liked and easy to deal with.

an amiable teacher not easily annoyed

good-natured implies cheerfulness or helpfulness and sometimes a willingness to be imposed upon.

a good-natured girl who was always willing to pitch in

obliging stresses a friendly readiness to be helpful.

our obliging innkeeper found us a bigger room

complaisant often implies passivity or a yielding to others because of weakness.

was too complaisant to protest a decision he thought unfair

Examples of complaisant in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web However, Imperial County landowners and complaisant U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials ignored that limit, allowing rapid consolidation of land, says Andrés, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the county’s early years. Janet Wilson, ProPublica, 9 Nov. 2023 Last month Ferrari lofted its banners over a resort near the southern port of Cagliari and invited journalists to test-drive the new Ferrari Roma Spider, taking advantage of the excellent tarmac, ideal weather and complaisant authorities. Dan Neil, WSJ, 5 Oct. 2023 Overall, the song feels like a deep analysis and reflection on the complaisant position men may take in love and relationships, giving us a track that reams out awful boyfriends and the mindless behavior of their partners who continue to allow them back into their lives to act this way. Abby Dupes, Seventeen, 21 May 2022 But Ohio shouldn’t get complaisant. Julie Washington, cleveland, 8 Apr. 2021 In each case, the man has an energetic wife who has continued making public appearances while her husband retreats behind a veil of discretion at which a complaisant press seems reluctant to tug. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, 3 Mar. 2023 Private institutional investors such as BlackRock and Vanguard tend to be more complaisant about CEO pay — except for European funds. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2023 His admirers included such luminaries as U.S. Sen. Robert Wagner, all of whom turned a complaisant eye to the married Crater’s other life as a randy stage-door johnny with a mistress and a harem of chorus girls and Polly Adler hookers. Edward Kosner, WSJ, 20 June 2022 Administrations since have learned not to be so complaisant. WSJ, 20 May 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'complaisant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, from Middle French, from present participle of complaire to gratify, acquiesce, from Latin complacēre

First Known Use

1638, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of complaisant was in 1638


Dictionary Entries Near complaisant

Cite this Entry

“Complaisant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

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