complaisant was our Word of the Day on 06/15/2009. Hear the podcast!
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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.
Origin and Etymology of complaisant
First Known Use: 1638See Words from the same year
Synonym Discussion of complaisant
- an amiable teacher not easily annoyed
- a good-natured girl who was always willing to pitch in
- our obliging innkeeper found us a bigger room
- was too complaisant to protest a decision he thought unfair
COMPLAISANT Defined for English Language Learners
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