de·​vi·​ous | \ ˈdē-vē-əs How to pronounce devious (audio) , -vyəs \

Definition of devious

1a : wandering, roundabout a devious path
b : moving without a fixed course : errant devious breezes
2 : out-of-the-way, remote upon devious coasts
3a : deviating from a right, accepted, or common course devious conduct
b : not straightforward : cunning a devious politician also : deceptive a devious trick a devious plot

Other Words from devious

deviously adverb
deviousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for devious



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The "Lost" History of Devious

If you think someone devious has lost their way, you're right, etymologically speaking—the word derives from the Latin adjective devius, itself formed from the prefix de- ("from" or "away") and the noun via ("way"). When devious was first used in the 16th century, it implied a literal wandering off the way, suggesting something that meandered or had no fixed course (as in "a devious route" or "devious breezes"). Relatively quickly, however, the word came to describe someone or something that had left the right path metaphorically rather than literally, or to describe deceitful rather than straightforward behavior.

Examples of devious in a Sentence

a dishonest and devious politician He took us by a devious route to the center of the city.
Recent Examples on the Web His eyes retained the devious innocence of a spirited child. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 1 Aug. 2022 Week 666, evidence of work of the Devil: How devious is the Trickster! Pat Myers, Washington Post, 16 June 2022 Wally, their devious friend Eddie Haskell, and their long-suffering but understanding parents played by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont. Pat Saperstein, Variety, 26 July 2022 Human beings, no matter how proficient or numerous, can never scrutinize the vast landscape of online selling or keep up with the increasingly devious exploitation tactics of savvy criminals. Ariel Katz, Forbes, 25 July 2022 In the film, a taxi driver, Belle (Queen Latifah), teams up with a goofy police detective, Andy (Jimmy Fallon), to track down the devious thieves. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 20 July 2022 The devising and devious edgelord can be chortling and laughing all the way to the bank. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 10 July 2022 All that while Hop and Joyce (Winona Ryder) duel devious Demogorgons. Darren Franich,, 5 July 2022 By the testimony of his own staff, Trump was certainly devious, profane, suspicious, disloyal, unconcerned about morality, principles or the high ideals of public office. Los Angeles Times, 13 June 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of devious

1599, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for devious

Latin devius, from de from + via way — more at de-, way

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The first known use of devious was in 1599

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Last Updated

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Devious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for devious


de·​vi·​ous | \ ˈdē-vē-əs How to pronounce devious (audio) \

Kids Definition of devious

2 : not straight : having many twists and turns a devious trail

More from Merriam-Webster on devious

Nglish: Translation of devious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of devious for Arabic Speakers


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