WATCH NOW: Is "Complacent" A Negative Or Positive Word?

WATCH NOW: Is "Complacent" A Negative Or Positive Word?

Nowadays, "complacent" is seen as such a negative word. Which is funny because, originally, it was actually kind of a positive word.



pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied: The voters are too complacent to change the government.
pleasant; complaisant.

Origin of complacent

1650–60; < Latin complacent- (stem of complacēns, present participle of complacēre to take the fancy of, please, equivalent to com- com- + placēre to please
Related formscom·pla·cent·ly, adverbnon·com·pla·cent, adjectivenon·com·pla·cent·ly, adverbo·ver·com·pla·cent, adjectiveo·ver·com·pla·cent·ly, adverbun·com·pla·cent, adjectiveun·com·pla·cent·ly, adverb
Can be confusedcomplacent complaisant compliant

Synonyms for complacent Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for complacent

Contemporary Examples of complacent

Historical Examples of complacent

  • Mrs. Bines, so complacent overnight, was the most disconsolate one of the group.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • I wonder, sometimes, whether I was not too complacent over my proposed duties.

  • The complacent sophistries of her girlhood no longer answered for truth.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • If she, Madame Lorilleux, had acted like that, Coupeau wouldn't be so complacent.


    Emile Zola

  • Her husband fell into the trap, and smiled with complacent superiority.

British Dictionary definitions for complacent



pleased or satisfied, esp extremely self-satisfied
an obsolete word for complaisant
Derived Formscomplacently, adverb

Word Origin for complacent

C17: from Latin complacēns very pleasing, from complacēre to be most agreeable to, from com- (intensive) + placēre to please
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for complacent

1650s, "pleasing," from Latin complacentem (nominative complacens) "pleasing," present participle of complacere "be very pleasing" (see complacence). Meaning "pleased with oneself" is from 1767. Related: Complacently.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper