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

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Other Words from deviate


deviator \ ˈdē-​vē-​ˌā-​tər How to pronounce deviator (audio) \ noun
deviatory \ ˈdē-​vē-​ə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce deviatory (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 Beijing has exerted pressure on companies deemed to be deviating from the party line, too, generally by penning high-profile denunciations on state media and calling for nationwide boycotts. Mary Hui, Quartz, "What the Hong Kong protests can teach the world about enduring social movements," 19 Nov. 2019 This isn't the first time Meghan has deviated from her signature loose curls or bun. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Ditched Her Go-To Hairstyles for a Classic Ponytail," 17 Oct. 2018 John may deviate from scientific logic, but his plotline displays critical thinking without self-interest—an ability the novel’s other doctors lack. Lily Meyer, The Atlantic, "An 18th-Century Birthing Scam," 27 Nov. 2019 Yet the Raiders didn’t deviate from dinking and dunking — Gruden’s ideal offense. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Kurtenbach: Jon Gruden’s not adjusting, and that’s a big issue for the Raiders," 19 Sep. 2019 In the case of the anti-antiabortion screed, bloggers across the political spectrum applauded or condemned the participating companies, but revenues didn’t deviate noticeably up or down. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, "The 2010s Were the Decade That Forced CEOs to Get Political," 19 Dec. 2019 Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel deviated from the board and chose Johnson to replace Garry McCarthy. William Lee,, "‘Someone who really understands Chicago.’ South Siders offer advice on a new police superintendent," 10 Dec. 2019 But as progressive as Marmee was in real life, Alcott was careful not to deviate in her book from what was acceptable for women at the time. Carina Chocano, Town & Country, "Laura Dern Is Stepping Into Her Power," 23 Oct. 2019 Colon rarely deviated from variations of his fastball, and Wheeler acknowledged trouble with his breaking pitches in last Tuesday’s start against the Marlins. Joe Lemire, New York Times, "The Mets’ Latest August Run Stalls, but Optimism Abounds," 11 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Thomas faces preliminary charges of rape with deadly force, rape with deadly weapon, and criminal deviate conduct, IMPD said. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "Wisconsin man arrested in connection with 1998 rape of Indianapolis woman," 22 Jan. 2018 He was convicted on three counts: rape, criminal deviate conduct and robbery. CBS News, "Guilty until Proven Innocent," 9 Dec. 2017 But the areas of common ground make clear the extent to which President Trump’s views on the government’s role in health care deviate from those of respected voices on both the left and the right. Amy Goldstein, Washington Post, "Bipartisan health policy coalition urges Congress to strengthen the ACA," 9 Aug. 2017 After submitting a plea agreement, Riley was sentenced to seven years for involuntary manslaughter and 31 years for criminal deviate conduct. Ruth Ann Krause, Post-Tribune, "Gary man sentenced to 91 years in woman's shooting death," 11 July 2017 Riley was convicted in 1997 of involuntary manslaughter and criminal deviate conduct involving a 10-month-old child. Ruth Ann Krause, Post-Tribune, "Prosecutor: Riley's story doesn't add up," 5 June 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Aggravating circumstances: Rape/criminal deviate conduct, on probation or parole, mutilation/torture. Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana death row holds 11 prisoners," 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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Statistics for deviate

Last Updated

26 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Deviate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for deviate


How to pronounce deviate (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on deviate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for deviate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with deviate

Spanish Central: Translation of deviate

Nglish: Translation of deviate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of deviate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on deviate

What made you want to look up deviate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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