de·​vi·​ous ˈdē-vē-əs How to pronounce devious (audio)
: wandering, roundabout
a devious path
: moving without a fixed course : errant
devious breezes
: out-of-the-way, remote
upon devious coasts
: deviating from a right, accepted, or common course
devious conduct
: not straightforward : cunning
a devious politician
also : deceptive
a devious trick
a devious plot
deviously adverb
deviousness noun

Did you know?

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 Larraín’s gory satire is filmed in beautiful black and white, with a stunning, devious nun posing as an accountant, a prominent guillotine and plenty of night flights that literally make heads roll. Jada Yuan, Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2023 Initially, the attackers stored their devious files on Cloudflare. Kurt Knutsson, Fox News, 19 Oct. 2023 But that devious not-actual-opening Broadway celebration performance is a fun little trick people keep pulling. Vulture Staff, Vulture, 13 Oct. 2023 There’s something devious about empowerment stories. Sara Holdren, Vulture, 22 Sep. 2023 Whether the characters are forthright or devious, all the performances are in sync with the rugged seclusion of the setting, as is the rustic-meets-old-timey aesthetic of the production design (by Adriana Bogaard) and costumes (Charlotte Reid). Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Sep. 2023 Reality Stars Are Buried Alive — by Accusations and Lies — in Shady New Peacock Series' The Traitors' The cast is expected to be made up of some of the greatest devious, strategic players across reality TV and beyond. Dave Quinn, Peoplemag, 21 Sep. 2023 Historians and human rights activists, however, said that for decades, with Mr. Mandela languishing as a prisoner of conscience, Mr. Buthelezi amplified his power with devious stratagems. Robert D. McFadden, New York Times, 10 Sep. 2023 Historians and human rights activists, however, said that for decades, as Mandela languished as a prisoner of conscience, Buthelezi amplified his power with devious stratagems. Robert D. McFadden,, 9 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'devious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1599, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of devious was in 1599


Dictionary Entries Near devious

Cite this Entry

“Devious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​vi·​ous ˈdē-vē-əs How to pronounce devious (audio)
: straying from a straight course : roundabout
the devious trail that wound along the creek
leading through devious mazes
: sneaky, deceptive
a devious plan
got it by devious means
deviously adverb
deviousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on devious

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