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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from devious

deviously adverb
deviousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for devious



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 late 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 suggest someone or something that had metaphorically rather than literally left the "right path" or to deceitful (rather than "straight"-forward) 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 And Zach is, well, rather devious, underhanded and determined that North will beat East in a big musical theater competition, no matter what. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 June 2021 There are certain devious screenwriter tricks to perhaps get a little bit of your sympathy for Ronald. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 19 May 2021 Of all of the contestants on Season 2 of Netflix’s The Circle, no one is perhaps as devious as Courtney Revolution. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 13 May 2021 If current officeholders leave from PTSD, or talented challengers take a pass rather than take their lives in their hands by going public, this is leftist voter curtailment more devious and anti-democratic than good ol' Georgia-style suppression. Jim Meyer, Star Tribune, 6 Apr. 2021 Orchids are among the most devious flowering plants on the planet. Richard Pallardy, Science | AAAS, 12 May 2021 The Bedlam in Goliath that sounds like an off-kilter soundtrack to a Twenties horror film — fitting, considering that Bedlam was famously inspired by a devious Ouija board. Brenna Ehrlich, Rolling Stone, 22 Apr. 2021 The leads make a splendid odd couple, especially as their modestly devious plot spins beyond their control. Darren Franich,, 20 Apr. 2021 Just a hint of a smirk and perhaps a small twinkle in his eye as hints to his devious deed. Megan Ryan, Star Tribune, 17 Apr. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About devious

Time Traveler for devious

Time Traveler

The first known use of devious was in 1599

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About devious

Statistics for devious

Last Updated

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Devious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for devious



English Language Learners Definition of devious

: willing to lie and trick people in order to get what is wanted
formal : not straight or direct : having many twists and turns


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


Test Your Vocabulary

Return of Name that Color!

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!