de·​vi·​ate | \ ˈdē-vē-ˌāt How to pronounce deviate (audio) \
deviated; deviating

Definition of deviate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to stray especially from a standard, principle, or topic deviating from the subject
2 : to depart from an established course or norm a flight forced by weather to deviate south rarely deviates from his usual routine behaviors that deviate from the norm

transitive verb

: to cause to turn out of a previous course he would deviate rivers, turn the scorched plains … into fertile pastures— F. M. Godfrey


de·​vi·​ate | \ ˈdē-vē-ət How to pronounce deviate (audio) , -vē-ˌāt \

Definition of deviate (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : one that deviates from a norm especially : a person who differs markedly from a group norm
2 mathematics : a statistical variable that gives the deviation (see deviation sense b) of another variable from a fixed value (such as the mean)


de·​vi·​ate | \ ˈdē-vē-ət How to pronounce deviate (audio) , -vē-ˌāt \

Definition of deviate (Entry 3 of 3)

: departing significantly from the behavioral norms (see norm sense 2) of a particular society deviate behavior

Other Words from deviate


deviator \ ˈdē-​vē-​ˌā-​tər How to pronounce deviate (audio) \ noun
deviatory \ ˈdē-​vē-​ə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce deviate (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for deviate


swerve, veer, deviate, depart, digress, diverge mean to turn aside from a straight course. swerve may suggest a physical, mental, or moral turning away from a given course, often with abruptness. swerved to avoid hitting the dog veer implies a major change in direction. at that point the path veers to the right deviate implies a turning from a customary or prescribed course. never deviated from her daily routine depart suggests a deviation from a traditional or conventional course or type. occasionally departs from his own guidelines digress applies to a departing from the subject of one's discourse. a professor prone to digress diverge may equal depart but usually suggests a branching of a main path into two or more leading in different directions. after school their paths diverged

Deviant & Deviate

Deviant and deviate share a common root (the Latin deviare “to wander off the road, swerve, deviate”) and have some similarities in meaning, but they differ in notable ways. Deviant has functioned in English as an adjective (since the 15th century) and as a noun (since the early 20th century), in each case with a sense that suggests a straying from an accepted norm or from what is considered standard behavior. In contrast to deviant’s socially prescriptive connotations, the verb deviate often implies a less judgmental sense of swerving from the usual way (as in “he never deviated from his routine of drinking coffee with breakfast.”)

Examples of deviate in a Sentence

Verb sailors forced to deviate from their course in order to avoid the storm Noun a sleazy bar that seemed to be an informal clubhouse for deviates Adjective the mother's deviate response to her child's death aroused suspicions
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb There’s no reason for New England to deviate from the run, even with Damien Harris (hamstring) potentially unavailable. New York Times, 23 Dec. 2021 But seeing as William will one day be monarch, the Cambridges have less room to deviate from tradition. Stephanie Petit,, 17 Nov. 2021 Beijing isn’t the first government to deviate from normal bankruptcy rules, as Americans can attest after the 2008 financial panic. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 13 Oct. 2021 At the top of that list is whether studios might deviate from the long-standing tradition of having white men play the iconic role and expand the opportunity to women and actors of color. Brande Victorian, Essence, 9 Oct. 2021 Without this detailed explanation of the OECD’s model law, countries are more likely to deviate (accidentally or on purpose) from the global deal. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 13 Dec. 2021 Even as the offense converted only two-of-12 third-down attempts, resulting in six punts, New England did not deviate from its plan to overwhelm Buffalo with the rush. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, 7 Dec. 2021 The authorities won’t actually let MAS operate fully autonomously this close to shore, so MAS doesn’t deviate from its set course. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 27 Nov. 2021 Supply shortages and unreliable logistics are forcing manufacturers and contract manufacturers (CMs) to deviate from their manufacturing plans, shifting production to match available materials. Forbes, 9 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Rather than drastically deviate from your norm, try keeping your caffeine intake consistent. Sarah Garone,, 13 Sep. 2021 Boards, schools, and even teachers can choose to do the bare minimum or deviate from script, which means what students learn is wildly different from school to school, and even classroom to classroom. Carli Whitwell,, 24 Aug. 2021 As a result, many of the structures deviate from current building standards. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 July 2021 In various performances of the play over the years, the actors have been known deviate from the script by having conversations about the material with each other or the audience. Randall G. Mielke,, 29 June 2021 There’s no reason to trade any prospects at this point or deviate from the long-term plan with some rash move., 21 June 2021 But a look at the data shows that while San Francisco’s crime rates did deviate from previous trends in 2020, most types of violent crime actually plummeted — and all violent crime rates remain near their lowest levels since 1975. Susie Neilson, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 Apr. 2021 For the spring 2021 season, Lemaire and Tran didn’t deviate from their formula. Barry Samaha, Harper's BAZAAR, 10 Mar. 2021 These upstarts deviate from the traditional manufacturing narrative in olive oil that often involves a plot of land that’s been in the family for generations. Flora Tsapovksy, San Francisco Chronicle, 7 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Aggravating circumstances: Rape/criminal deviate conduct, on probation or parole, mutilation/torture. Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, 31 Jan. 2014

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deviate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of deviate


circa 1633, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1912, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1929, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for deviate

Verb, Noun, and Adjective

Late Latin deviatus, past participle of deviare, from Latin de- + via way — more at way

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Time Traveler for deviate

Time Traveler

The first known use of deviate was circa 1633

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Deviate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for deviate



English Language Learners Definition of deviate

: to do something that is different or to be different from what is usual or expected


de·​vi·​ate | \ ˈdē-vē-ˌāt How to pronounce deviate (audio) \
deviated; deviating

Kids Definition of deviate

: to follow a course, principle, standard, or topic that is different from usual He never deviates from his daily routine.


de·​vi·​ate | \ ˈdē-vē-ət How to pronounce deviate (audio) , -vē-ˌāt How to pronounce deviate (audio) \

Medical Definition of deviate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: characterized by or given to significant departure from the behavioral norms of a particular society



Medical Definition of deviate (Entry 2 of 2)

: one that deviates from a norm especially : a person who differs markedly from a group norm

More from Merriam-Webster on deviate

Nglish: Translation of deviate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of deviate for Arabic Speakers


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