The Meaning of Complicit: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been confused by the definition of complicit? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word complicit, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word complicit mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word complicit is an adjective that means being involved with others in illegal or reprehensible activity.. Being complicit means you were not involved in the causation of a crime, but the commission of the crime. A conspirator with conspiratorial liability, accomplice liability, or accessorial liability is said to be complicit. Someone who is complicit in a questionable act or unfair activity is still an offender, but they were likely not the root of the crime. Complicit is three syllables – com-plic-it, and the pronunciation of complicit is kəmˈplɪsɪt.

Even Charles Dickens used a variation on the word complicit in his novel Hard Times per Your Dictionary. In Ch. 32, he wrote, “He drew up a placard, offering Twenty Pounds reward for the apprehension of Stephen Blackpool, suspected of complicity in the robbery of Coketown Bank.” In 2017 on Saturday Night Live, Scarlett Johansson portrayed President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump in a sketch about a luxury fragrance and new perfume called Complicit.

Many different languages also contain words that mean complicit. You may notice that some of these translations of complicit look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases in different languages that likely have the same root or language of origin, causing them to sound the same. The below list of translations of complicit is provided by Word Sense, but you could also find them in a German Dictionary, Spanish Dictionary, or French electronic resource. 

  •  Bulgarian: съучастничество‎ (neut.)
  •  Spanish: complicidad‎ (fem.)
  •  German: Mittäterschaft‎ (fem.)
  •  Japanese: 共犯‎ (きょうはん, kyōhan)
  •  French: complicité‎ (fem.)
  •  Serbo-Croatian: suučesništvo‎, saučesništvo‎
  •  Persian: همدستی‎ (hamdasti), همدستی در جرم‎
  •  Catalan: complicitat‎ (fem.)
  •  Albanian: bashkëfajësi‎ (fem.)
  •  Russian: соуча́стие‎ (neut.)
  •  Mandarin: 同謀‎, 同谋‎ (tóngmóu), 共謀‎, 共谋‎ (gòngmóu)
  •  Portuguese: cumplicidade‎ (fem.)
  •  Italian: complicità‎ (fem.)

What is the origin of complicit?

According to Etymonline, the word complicit has been used since c17 and comes from the French complicité, from Old French complice meaning accomplice, comrade, orcompanion. This comes from Late Latin complicem, the accusative of the Latin complex from the Latin complicare meaning to fold together, from the Latin prefix com meaning with or together and the Latin plicare meaning to fold, weave.

How can the word complicit be used in a sentence?

The word complicit can be used in many different contexts in the English language. Trying to use a word in a sentence is one of the best ways to memorize its definition and add it to your vocabulary, but you can also try making flashcards or quizzes that test your knowledge. Try using this word of the day and word of the year in a sentence today! Below are a couple of  examples of the word complicit that can help get you started incorporating this word into your vocabulary.  

Dr. Solomon Flake refused to admit that he was complicit on CBS News. He tried not to get involved in politics, so being tied to the occurrence of major spikes in illicit activity on the Senate floor in October and April made him quake. He could not let this be the popular perception.

The primary actors and secondary actors may not have written the offensive play, but they were still complicit in its being performed. 

What are synonyms and antonyms of complicit?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word complicit (adj.). These are considered synonyms, which are words that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself or if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word complicit is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  complicity
  •  abetter
  •  partner
  •  hijacker
  •  actively
  •  conspirator
  •  serious
  •  some responsibility
  •  abettors
  •  abettor
  •  accessary
  •  partly my fault
  •  co-conspirator
  •  shared responsibilities
  •  part of the blame
  •  guilty
  •  supporting
  •  associate
  •  allies
  •  craft
  •  abetted
  •  instigators
  •  connivance
  •  colluding
  •  privity
  •  jointly responsible
  •  conniving
  •  connive
  •  party
  •  joint responsibility
  •  accomplice
  •  colluded
  •  confederate
  •  share of the blame
  •  masterminds
  •  concerned
  •  co-responsibility
  •  abetting
  •  partially responsible
  •  co-responsible
  •  conspiracy
  •  coconspirator
  •  share the blame
  •  partly to blame
  •  accomplices
  •  engaged
  •  partly responsible
  •  conniver
  •  complicate
  •  co-conspirators
  •  inciters
  •  share of responsibility
  •  confederates
  •  shill
  •  accessory
  •  accessories
  •  involvement
  •  involved
  •  submerged
  •  furtherer
  •  share of the burden
  •  active
  •  aiders
  •  associates
  •  share of blame
  •  partners

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word complicit. These are considered antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you want to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word complicit is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  clear
  •  wide-eyed
  •  clean
  •  ingenuous
  •  blameless
  •  pure
  •  inoffensive
  •  not guilty
  •  ignorant
  •  immaculate
  •  naive
  •  chaste
  •  unsullied
  •  trusting
  •  innocuous
  •  artless
  •  childlike
  •  impeccable
  •  virginal
  •  unblemished
  •  guileless
  •  unsophisticated
  •  honest
  •  unacquainted
  •  credulous
  •  sinless
  •  unsuspecting
  •  gullible
  •  guiltless
  •  harmless
  •  decent
  •  moral
  •  safe
  •  virtuous
  •  irreproachable
  •  faultless
  •   respectable
  •  baby
  •  unaffected
  •  nescient
  •  unstained
  •  unwitting
  •  untarnished
  •  innocence
  •  above suspicion
  •  fool
  •  inexperienced person
  •  in the clear
  •  clean-handed
  •  impeccant
  •  candid
  •  ingenue
  •  free
  •  open
  •  squeaky clean
  •  natural
  •  unobjectionable
  •  child
  •  modest
  •  uncorrupted
  •  exemplary
  •  unguarded
  •  unoffending
  •  barren
  •  sucker
  •  bairn
  •  born yesterday
  •  wet behind the ears
  •  trustful
  •  unenlightened
  •  unknowing
  •  good
  •  impressionable
  •  unsuspicious
  •  unwary
  •  lily-white
  •  saintly
  •  honorable
  •  stainless
  •  innoxious
  •  uninformed
  •  unaware
  •  virgin
  •  inculpable
  •  lamb
  •  upright
  •  unimpeachable
  •  angelic
  •  devoid
  •  green
  •  unworldly
  •  wholesome
  •  undefiled
  •  inexperienced
  •  untainted
  •  simple
  •  destitute
  •  benign
  •  spotless
  •  innocent
  •  righteous
  •  innocent bystander

Overall, the word complicit means connected with illegal or illicit activity. This word is Latin in origin.

Sources:

  1. Complicity Meaning | Best 5 Definitions of Complicity | Your Dictionary 
  2. Complicit definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  3. complicit: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. Complicit synonyms – 66 Words and Phrases for Complicit | Power Thesaurus 
  5. Complicit Antonyms | Power Thesaurus 
  6. complicity | Origin and meaning of complicity | Online Etymology Dictionary