Complacent vs complicit

Photo of author


Complacent and complicit are two words that are often confused. We will examine the difference between the definitions for complacent and complicit, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Complacent means self-satisfied, smug, uncritical about one’s achievements. A person who is complacent is not subject to self-criticism, he is content in himself. Complacent has a negative connotation, carrying the unspoken meaning of laziness or inattention to self-improvement. The word complacent is derived from the Latin word complacentem, which means pleasing.

Complicit means cooperating with others in a criminal or otherwise nefarious offense, cooperating with others in something that is morally wrong. Complicit is an adjective, a back-formation coined in the 1940s from the word complicity, which is taken from the Old French word complice, meaning companion or accomplice.


Jeremy Corbyn has slammed the budget for being complacent and out of touch with the realities of the life for millions of Britons. (The Mirror)

But this is a mirage, according to the economist and popular writer Tyler Cowen, whose new book is The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. (The Atlantic)

In the lawsuit, the families of 800 victims say the Middle Eastern kingdom was complicit in providing funding for the worst terrorist strike on American soil, saying it “actively supported al Qaeda in its final preparations for the September 11th attacks.” (The New York Daily News)

Jegath Jayasuriya, a former Sri Lankan army commander and the government’s current Ambassador to Brazil, is alleged to be complicit in the torture that took place at the Joseph Camp in Vavuniya between August 2007 and mid-July 2009, according to a report released by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITPJ). (The Tamil Guardian)