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
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But the last week has taught us that this year's NCAA Tournament will inevitably deviate from the script. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, 26 Mar. 2022 Hikers and climbers looking for a challenge will be tempted to deviate from the Juliana Trail and tackle the ascent to the summit of Mount Triglav. Mary Novakovich, CNN, 11 Feb. 2022 Gomez was able to deviate from the glossy sheen of her Disney background and live life on her own terms. Elizabeth Loga, Glamour, 6 Aug. 2021 The Reds, entrenched in rebuilding mode, did not deviate from their plan. Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2022 Mock scenarios are a great addition and ensure that employees know that processes (as in the gift card phishing scam) will not deviate in any scenario. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022 The two pitchers did not deviate from those patterns on a breezy and cool Saturday at Kauffman Stadium. Paul Hoynes, cleveland, 9 Apr. 2022 The Judiciary Committee did not deviate too much from its typical schedule of holding nominations hearings every other week that the Senate is in session. Tierney Sneed, CNN, 4 Apr. 2022 Still, there’s eight Bridgerton siblings total, so the show could still deviate at any moment from the order set out in the books. Milan Polk, Men's Health, 29 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And so the question is, in the case, did the image and the artwork that Warhol created, did that deviate enough? Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 29 Mar. 2022 How is voting supposed to be conducted in nursing homes and how did elections in 2020 deviate from that? Molly Beck And Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 17 Mar. 2022 The marks on the Krapina 3 Neandertal skull deviate from all the other examples of bone modification at the site and are unique in the fossil record. David W. Frayer, Scientific American, 1 Feb. 2022 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 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 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of deviate was circa 1633

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Statistics for deviate

Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Deviate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for deviate


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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