Word Choice: Complacent vs. Complaisant
  • 2-minute read
  • 11th October 2021

Word Choice: Complacent vs. Complaisant

The words “complacent” and “complaisant” are homophones: words that sound similar but have different meanings. To ensure you use them both correctly in your writing, check out our guide on what they mean below.

Complacent (Being Overly Self-Satisfied)

“Complacent” is an adjective that refers to being so self-satisfied or confident that you are unaware of potential dangers or deficiencies. For example:

She had been warned there were snakes in the long grass, but she became complacent after a few days and decided to wear sandals rather than boots.

Undeserved praise from her boss made her complacent.

The noun form of this word, meanwhile, is “complacency.”

Complaisant (Being Willing to Please)

“Complaisant” is an adjective meaning “willing to please others or oblige”: 

People often took advantage of her complaisant nature.

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The complaisant child always gave his snacks away to his classmates.

This word is much rarer than “complacent” in modern English, though.

Summary: Complacent or Complaisant?

Although these adjectives sound similar, they have different meanings:

  • Complacent refers to being so self-satisfied that you’re blind to risk or danger.
  • Complaisant refers to being willing to please others.

“Complacent” is by far the more common of these terms, so it’s likely that you’ll need this spelling more often than “complaisant.” However, if you struggle to tell these spellings apart, remember that if a person is “complacent,” they believe that they are guaranteed to “ace” something, and both of these words are spelled with a “c.”

If you can remember this, you will know to use “complaisant,” spelled with an “s,” in other instances. Hopefully, this will help you to avoid mixing these words up in your writing. And if you’d like more advice on your spelling or word choice, try our proofreading service by uploading a trial document for free today!

Comments (2)
Ted Davidson
20th October 2021 at 02:57
"“Complacent” is by far the most common of these terms..." Shouldn't it be "the more common"?
    20th October 2021 at 09:38
    Good point, Ted. Now corrected.

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