com·​plic·​i·​ty kəm-ˈpli-s(ə-)tē How to pronounce complicity (audio)
plural complicities
: association or participation in or as if in a wrongful act
arrested for complicity in the crime
: an instance of complicity
The two share a complicity she calls fraternal.Joan Dupont

Examples of complicity in a Sentence

There's no proof of her complicity in the murder. He acted with his brother's complicity.
Recent Examples on the Web There’s obviously a push toward either silence or complicity. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Feb. 2024 In an unprecedented display of coordinated dissent, more than 800 officials from the United States and Europe signed a scathing criticism of Western policy towards Israel and Gaza, accusing their governments of possible complicity in war crimes. Ivana Kottasová, CNN, 5 Feb. 2024 The institute was placed on a trade blacklist in 2020, accused of complicity in abuses against ethnic minorities in China like the Uyghurs. Olivia Wang, New York Times, 2 Feb. 2024 Hough’s series spotlights not just the manipulation prevalent in these types of media portrayals of women, but the audience’s voyeuristic complicity. Virginia Brown, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 Over 1,100 people were killed in the October 7 sneak attacks carried out by Hamas with UNRWA complicity. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 31 Jan. 2024 Auden, clearly some kind of fan, acknowledged his complicity, while Wilson stridently absolved himself of any hint of temptation. Geoffrey O’Brien, The New York Review of Books, 18 Jan. 2024 But the movie suggests complicity in one way or another. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Jan. 2024 Pétain would, in particular, have to answer for Vichy’s complicity in the Holocaust. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from French complicité, borrowed from New Latin complicitāt-, complicitās, formed from Late Latin complic-, complex "fellow-participant, partner, accomplice" and Latin -itāt-, -itās -ity, probably after Late Latin duplicitās duplicity — more at complice

Note: The formation of the word is peculiar in that Latin -itāt-, -itās, along with its descendants and borrowings, is rarely added to nouns. Outside of the dictionaries of Thomas Blount and Elisha Coles, complicity is rare to non-existent in English text before the later eighteenth century, when its adoption was probably stimulated by French complicité.

First Known Use

circa 1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of complicity was circa 1656

Dictionary Entries Near complicity

Cite this Entry

“Complicity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


com·​plic·​i·​ty kəm-ˈplis-ət-ē How to pronounce complicity (audio)
plural complicities
: association or participation in a wrongful act

More from Merriam-Webster on complicity

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