'Complicit' defined as 'having complicity'

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the Mail Tribune published an article by LeAnne Italie titled "Website chooses 'complicit' as word of the year."

It runs approximately a sixth of a newspaper page, yet never clearly defines the word "complicit." What's up with that, and can you at least give us a definition here?

— via email


Lest we bee seen as complicit in the erosion of the English language, we'll gladly print a definition. But first, an explanation.

Our copy editors picked that story about Dictionary.com's word of the year, "complicit," from the Associated Press wire. The fine folks at the AP put the story together with a photograph we didn't use, a screenshot of the website's definition of the word.

Ms. Italie and the AP didn't include the definition in the body text of the article because as submitted it would've been redundant.

For reasons that could have ranged from space limitations to aesthetics, our copy editors opted to leave out the less than action-packed picture of a website; however, you may have noticed it left the story as-printed to be rather incomplete.

So what's that definition actually say?

The top definition defines complicit as adjective meaning "choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having complicity." If you're wondering, Dictionary.com got this definition from the 2017 "Random House Unabridged Dictionary."

Lexiconographers at Dictionary.com found that lookups of "complicit" were 300 percent greater than last year.

The website describes it as a "back-formation" of the word "complicity," meaning the longer word with was coined first in the 1650s.

Complicity gets its roots from the archaic noun "complice," defined as "an accomplice or associate."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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