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

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Other Words from devious

deviously adverb
deviousness noun

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

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 Rashida Jones is always a welcome presence, but her character Cheryl, a longtime crush of both Chilli and Bob, is only there to stir up some tension between the pals (at Jerry's devious design) and not much else. Author: Katie Walsh, Anchorage Daily News, "Review: Like the game, ‘Tag’ is a whole lot of fun," 14 June 2018 The true standout is Demetriou as the demented, devious Moriarty, who takes the form of an adorable but evil little pie boy figurine, sort of like if Bob’s Big Boy wore less clothes and had less hair. Katie Walsh, kansascity, "‘Sherlock Gnomes’ is a garden-variety kid movie | The Kansas City Star," 22 Mar. 2018 Image Friday the 13th is the patron day of black cat crossings, devious witches, shattered mirrors, suspicious ladders — and cheap tattoos. Zoe Greenberg, New York Times, "Friday the 13th, a ‘Tattoo Holiday’," 13 July 2018 The grasping consort and devious stepmother are stock types as old as time. Maxwell Carter, WSJ, "‘Empress’ Review: Light of the Mughal World," 13 July 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.

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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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Statistics for devious

Last Updated

26 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for devious

The first known use of devious was in 1599

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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

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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).


playful or foolish behavior

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