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

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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 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 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, "The Mars Volta’s ‘La Realidad de los Sueños’ Is a Time Machine, a Treasure Chest, a Key," 22 Apr. 2021 The leads make a splendid odd couple, especially as their modestly devious plot spins beyond their control. Darren Franich,, "Nominated for Nothing: First Cow’s West was too wild for the Academy," 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, "Twins clobbered 10-3 by Angels in opening game of West Coast road trip," 17 Apr. 2021 Even so, the sheer devious ingenuity, diversity and abundance of the devices with which fungi responded to the challenge is grimly awe-inspiring. Jennifer Frazer, Scientific American, "How a Carnivorous Mushroom Poisons Its Prey," 8 Apr. 2021 With a bit of vigilance, training and procedures, all businesses can operate safely and frustrate devious hackers. Jess Coburn,, "Small business never too small to be cyber-attacked | Opinion," 1 Apr. 2021 Behind her angelic facade, McCormack’s character, Rhoda, is a devious killer in this psychological horror directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Radhika Seth, Vogue, "11 of the Youngest Acting Nominees in Oscar History," 21 Mar. 2021 Lured from Victorian England to the wilds of the Congo, Tarzan must return to the jungle to save his captive wife from King Leopold’s devious envoy. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘My Fair Lady’; ‘Marry Poppins’," 19 Mar. 2021 Charming, devious, detached and small-minded, Marcello Clerici (a superb Jean-Louis Trintignant ) serves the cause of Mussolini’s Italy at the expense of friends and lovers alike. Peter Cowie, WSJ, "Sinister Subservience," 19 Mar. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for devious

Time Traveler

The first known use of devious was in 1599

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Last Updated

25 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Devious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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
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

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