The idea of 'complacency' as a sense of smugness is only one part of its range of meanings, and in my view not its most up-to-date sense. Unfortunately the most recent quotation which the OED provides is from 1875 !
My own view is that the modern sense in which 'complacent' or 'complacency' is most commonly used does not centre on an idea of smugness. It rather focuses on a presumption that everything will turn out fine, when the likelihood is that it may not, and stresses an ignorance on the part of the complacent of potential pitfalls.
'The Manchester United board, in making a simple managerial change, were guilty of complacency that last season's success would be easily repeated'
The above does not necessarily mean the board were smug. It simply means that they thought the task in hand would be easier than it turned out to be.
In fairness to the OED, though it is clearly behind the times with its quotations, does provide as its first meaning, one in which 'smugness' (according to ODD 'having or showing excessive pride in oneself or one's achievements') is neither mentioned nor implied.
Etymology: formed as complacence n., with the later form of the suffix, -ency suffix.
- The fact or state of being pleased with a thing or person; tranquil pleasure or satisfaction in something or some one.
1643 Milton Doctr. Divorce 16 This note of mutuall complacency forbids all offer of seducement.
1658 R. Baxter Of Saving Faith vi. 46 He loveth such as have it..with the love of Complacencie and Acceptation.
1745 J. Mason Self-knowl. (1853) i. xviii. 129 God can take no real Complacency in any but those that are like him.
1875 B. Jowett tr. Plato Dialogues IV. 30 Although he regards the enemies of pleasure with complacency.
a. spec. The fact or state of being pleased with oneself; tranquil pleasure or satisfaction in one's own condition or doings; self-satisfaction.
1650 J. Bulwer Anthropometamorphosis ii. 58 The vanity, pompe, and idle complacency of such women.
1781 W. Cowper Truth 419 So sings he, charmed with his own mind and form..Complacency has breathed a gentle gale O'er all his thoughts.
1862 J. Ruskin Munera Pulveris (1880) 29 A certain complacency may attach to the exhibition of them.
b. with pl. (rare.)
1829 I. Taylor Nat. Hist. Enthusiasm vii. 174 The complacencies of a selfish and vainglorious philanthropy.
†3. Pleasure, delight, enjoyment. Obs.
1652 E. Benlowes Theophila sig. A2v, Earthly Complacencies, and exteriour Gaities.
a1667 Bp. J. Taylor Wks. I. 114 Joys and transportations, spiritual comforts, and complacencies.
1800 T. Cogan Philos. Treat. Passions i. ii. 68 In strict propriety of language, Complacency is appropriate to that species of good, which originates from some mental or moral excellence.
1870 R. W. Emerson Success in Wks. (1906) III. 125 But also in complacencies..The man of sensibility counts it a delight only to hear a child's voice.
†4. Contented acquiescence or consent. Obs.
1652 J. Gaule Πυς-μαντια 178 Doth not the one thus act with more reluctancy, and the other with more complacency?
1663 J. Spencer Disc. Prodigies (1665) 407 A perfect complacency and acquiescence in all the present allotments of Divine Providence.
1709 H. Sacheverell Communic. of Sin 12 A..Complacency in Other's Sin Appropriates it to Us.
a. Disposition or wish to please, or comply with the wishes of, others; complaisance. ? Obs.
1651 J. Howell S.P.Q.V. 39 The complement which a Gentleman put upon a Lady, having five or six comly Daughters, who sayed, by way of complacency, that he never saw such a dainty Cupboard of Cristall Glasses in all his life.
1683 D. A. Whole Art Converse 18 'Tis civil to applaud sometimes, through an innocent complacency to what they say.
1727 A. Hamilton New Acct. E. Indies I. xxi. 247 A severe Inquisition Court [at Goa] which aws both Clergy and Laity to such a Complacency, that I question if there is such a Pack of..Hypocrites in the World.
1856 J. A. Froude Hist. Eng. (1858) I. v. 462 The king was supported only by the complacency of a few courtiers.
b. (pl.) Instances or acts of complaisance. ? Obs.
1749 D. Hartley Observ. Man ii. iii. 269 A Variety of Applauses and Complacencies.
1814 Wordsworth Excursion v. 218 The round Of smooth and solemnized complacencies.
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