Definition of complacent in English:



  • Showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements.

    ‘you can't afford to be complacent about security’
    • ‘I am very happy with the figures but I am aware we cannot become complacent.’
    • ‘The novelty of them has worn off and no team will again head north with the complacent attitude of an easy win and a night in Edinburgh.’
    • ‘However, residents have been warned they cannot afford to be complacent.’
    • ‘I had been complacent, even blasé, about someone who was really important to me.’
    • ‘You only get one life, and if all you ever do with it is grow rich or complacent or comfortable or proud then you might as well not have lived at all.’
    • ‘Most of the time he simply can't be bothered with it because he truly is lazy and complacent.’
    • ‘Nothing is 100 percent safe and nobody should be complacent at a cash machine.’
    • ‘His duty is to arouse the sleeper, to shake the complacent pillars of the world.’
    • ‘It is always wise to guard against adopting a complacent or smug attitude in life as one ages.’
    • ‘As the minister for justice he was obviously very complacent about the letter sent to him by the fingerprint expert.’
    • ‘Plus, decades of access to cheap oil has made us lazy and complacent about energy.’
    • ‘Why are so few people scandalised by the timorous, seemingly complacent, way that the police behaved?’
    • ‘But the superintendent is not complacent and is keen to reassure people there is still work to be done.’
    • ‘In all of this praise, however, there is a severe danger that we might become complacent.’
    • ‘With 66 deaths on our roads every week, none of us can afford to be complacent.’
    • ‘While this lead will shrink before polling day, you might think he'd be a tad complacent.’
    • ‘Trying different things keeps you alive and stops you being complacent.’
    • ‘There are many actions that companies can take to give staff a sense of security without making them complacent.’
    • ‘However, he is not being complacent and has already started training hard.’
    • ‘The second was made up of complacent industries relying on politicians and bureaucrats to protect them.’
    smug, self-satisfied, pleased with oneself, proud of oneself, self-approving, self-congratulatory, self-admiring, self-regarding
    gloating, triumphant, proud
    pleased, gratified, satisfied, content, contented
    careless, slack, lax, lazy
    like the cat that got the cream, i'm-all-right-jack
    View synonyms


Complacent and complaisant are two words which are similar in pronunciation and which both come from the Latin verb complacere ‘to please’, but in English they do not mean the same thing. Complacent is far commoner and means ‘smug and self-satisfied’. Complaisant, on the other hand, means ‘willing to please’, as in the local people proved complaisant and cordial


Mid 17th century (in the sense ‘pleasant’): from Latin complacent- pleasing, from the verb complacere.