• complicit •
Pronunciation: kêm-pli-sit • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Collusive, willingly involved in wrongdoing, in some way consciously assisting in wrongdoing.
Notes: This adjective is related to the verb comply, because the verb means "to accommodate, to act in accordance with" and complier is even more specific, meaning "accomplice". The adverb is complicitly and the noun, complicity .
In Play: Complicity may be used when we are not sure of the degree of collusion: "The media corporations are always as complicit in whatever results from political elections as the electorate." It may be used when we are sure: "Landowners who allow illegal dumping on their properties are considered complicit in the crime."
Word History: Today's Good Word is historically a back-formation from complicity, an anglicization of French complicité, a word based on Old French complice "accomplice, companion". French inherited this word from Late Latin complicem, the accusative of complex "closely associated, confederate". Complex is an adjective accompanying the verb complicare "to fold together", comprising com- "(together) with" + plicare "to fold, weave", inherited from PIE plek- "to braid, plait". We see the Greek renditions in plekein "to braid" and plektos "twisted". Plek- came to English through its Germanic ancestors as flax. But English didn't stop there; it borrowed from French, or directly from Latin, a host of words based on this PIE word: all words containing -plex, -plicate, or -plicit come from the same source.