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.

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

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 most 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 (0)

Upload a document

Instant Quote

Need more help perfecting your writing?

Proofed has the perfect editor!

Instant Quote

Price
$25.00

You can also upload a document to get an instant quote

Icon of cloud upload

Drag & drop your file

or browse your computer

Browse from your device

Icon of cloud upload

Drop your file here!

Icon of loading status

Your file is being
uploaded!

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.