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

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 These ideas, like a virus itself, can be easily transmitted from person to person, carried by both the unwitting and the devious and spreading almost invisibly through a vast virtual world. Matt Richtel, New York Times, "W.H.O. Fights a Pandemic Besides Coronavirus: an ‘Infodemic’," 6 Feb. 2020 And this rhetorical maneuver almost perfectly parallels the devious end run at the core of right-wing color blindness orthodoxy. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, The New Republic, "Seeing No Evil," 25 Mar. 2020 The app Alarmy has a truly devious workaround for this impulse. Audra Williams, Popular Science, "Procrastination is hurting Future You. Present You can help.," 30 Oct. 2019 Epstein's massive wealth and his connections to powerful politicians and celebrities allowed him to continue trafficking young women and girls long after many had exposed his devious interests. Spencer Neale, Washington Examiner, "Cindy McCain admits ‘we all knew’ about Epstein," 24 Jan. 2020 According to a popular conspiracy theory, Soleimani was preparing a military coup and the ayatollah, alarmed but devious, denounced him in the knowledge that the Americans would do the hard work. Nr Editors, National Review, "The Week," 23 Jan. 2020 Who else can keep up with Matt's constant devious plans? Sydney Bucksbaum,, "Lizzie McGuire: Where every character left off in the original series and movie," 19 Dec. 2019 The fact is that mean characters – cruel ones, nasty ones, devious ones – are the most fascinating ones in the show. David Lyman,, "We are suckers for a good bad guy. That's why we love 'Mean Girls'," 1 Nov. 2019 Expertly paced, artfully devious, The Second Sleep shows that Harris has learned a trick or two in the years since his triumphant 1992 debut. John Wilson, National Review, "A Post-Apocalyptic Tale with a Twist," 5 Dec. 2019

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

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The first known use of devious was in 1599

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Last Updated

7 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Devious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for devious


How to pronounce devious (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on devious

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for devious

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with devious

Spanish Central: Translation of devious

Nglish: Translation of devious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of devious for Arabic Speakers

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