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


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

Their agenda is not an American agenda, but a much more personal and devious one. Dahleen Glanton,, "When people speak, even Donald Trump sometimes has to listen," 25 June 2018 As Russia's leader in the 21st century, he's been the epitome of both traits — fighting Chechen rebels, directing the annexation of Crimea and, allegedly, approving an extensive and devious campaign to undermine American democracy. Fox News, "Vladimir Putin's power: From mean streets to Kremlin," 17 Mar. 2018 Normally a fairly predictable process with one or two favorites, this year’s best picture race has been maddeningly unclear, almost devious in its contradictions. Jake Coyle, The Seattle Times, "What will win best picture? It’s a maddeningly close race," 20 Feb. 2019 Fingers crossed that these films feature a dashing and devious Mr. Wickham as well. Lourdes Avila Uribe, Glamour, "What You Can Expect to See in Every Single Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie," 24 Dec. 2018 In the snapshot, the royal sports a gingham dress, dark clogs, and an adorably devious smile. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Princess Charlotte Looks Identical to Princess Diana's Niece Lady Kitty Spencer," 26 Nov. 2018 Does the Godx just work in mysterious and devious ways, taking with one hand while giving with the other? Chloe Schama, Vogue, "Jill Soloway on the Emotional Labor of the Female Showrunner," 5 Oct. 2018 Dry conditions and devious officials combined to make the par-3 No. Marcus Hayes,, "USGA says No. 7 at Shinnecock won't happen in this year's U.S. Open. But what will? | Marcus Hayes," 22 May 2018 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

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

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
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

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).


something desired as essential

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like 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!