de·​vi·​ous | \ ˈdē-vē-əs, -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


artful, beguiling, cagey (also cagy), crafty, cunning, cute, designing, dodgy [chiefly British], foxy, guileful, scheming, shrewd, slick, sly, subtle, tricky, wily


artless, guileless, ingenuous, innocent, undesigning

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

But a pleasingly devious streak, at times reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, winds through the collection, offsetting the latent melodrama. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction Books: Tapped Into a Kind of Magic," 25 Oct. 2018 Be sure to take lots of devious snacks with you from Hobart. Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "Chef Sarah Glover’s Guide to the Gorgeous Wilds (and Vintage Dress Shops) of Tasmania," 11 Dec. 2018 In the terror group's latest devious plot targeting Israeli soldiers, Hamas turned to the most powerful weapon of all -- love. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Hamas tried to spy on soldiers with fake dating apps, Israeli military says," 4 July 2018 Rashida Jones is always a welcome presence, but her character Cheryl, a longtime crush of both Chilli and Bob, is there to stir up some tension between the pals (at Jerry’s devious design) and not much else. Katie Walsh, Detroit Free Press, "Review: Playful ‘Tag’ is summer fluff with a heart," 15 June 2018 Yet there is something devious and haunting about the smile on his face and the shine emanating from his gleaming bald forehead., "90min Readers Name Notorious Cristiano Ronaldo Sculpture as the Worst of All Time," 18 Jan. 2018 The savvy of a veteran entering his 13th season has been impossible to miss, Kinsler, as one example, continually finding ways to advance an extra base in a manner that could almost be described as devious. Jeff Miller,, "Ian Kinsler has been putting on show for the Angels," 19 Mar. 2018 This child, feeling isolated and unloved, becomes secretive, devious and manipulative, even dangerous. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Summer 1993’ Review: Darkness Under the Spanish Sun," 24 May 2018 Rashida Jones is an always welcome presence, but her character Cheryl, a long-time crush of both Chilli and Bob, serves only to stir up some tension between the pals (at Jerry’s devious design). Katie Walsh,, "Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Isla Fisher deliver summer fun in comedy romp 'Tag'," 14 June 2018

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

Listen to Our Podcast about devious

Statistics for devious

Last Updated

5 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for devious

The first known use of devious was in 1599

See more words from the same year

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

: not straight or direct : having many twists and turns


de·​vi·​ous | \ ˈdē-vē-əs \

Kids Definition of devious

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on devious

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with devious

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for devious

Spanish Central: Translation of devious

Nglish: Translation of devious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of devious for Arabic Speakers

Comments on devious

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


marked by shyness and lack of polish

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Liar, Liar Quiz

  • alt-5761dbe2ba986
  • Someone who pretends to be sick in order to avoid work is a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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