de·​vise | \ di-ˈvīz How to pronounce devise (audio) \
devised; devising

Definition of devise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to form in the mind by new combinations or applications of ideas or principles : invent devise a new strategy
b archaic : conceive, imagine
c : to plan to obtain or bring about : plot devise one's death
2 law : to give (real estate) by will (see will entry 2 sense 1) — compare bequeath



Definition of devise (Entry 2 of 2)

1 law : the act of giving or disposing of real (see real entry 1 sense 2) property by will (see will entry 2 sense 1)
2 law : a will or clause of a will disposing of real property
3 law : property devised by will

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Other Words from devise


devisable \ di-​ˈvī-​zə-​bəl How to pronounce devise (audio) \ adjective
deviser noun

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There's something inventive about devise, a word that stems from Latin dividere, meaning "to divide." By the time devise appeared in English in the 1200s, its Anglo-French forebear deviser had accumulated an array of senses, including "to divide," "distribute," "arrange," "array," "digest," "order," "plan," "invent," "contrive," and "assign by will." English adopted most of these and added some new senses over the course of time: "to imagine," "guess," "pretend," and "describe." In modern use, we've disposed of a lot of the old meanings, but we kept the one that applies to wills. Devise traditionally referred to the transfer of real property (land), and bequeath to personal property; these days, however, devise is often recognized as applying generally to all the property in a person's estate.

Examples of devise in a Sentence

Verb They have devised a new method for converting sunlight into electricity. she quickly devised a new scheme when the first one failed
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The owner Jason McCrea has a background in chemistry, and like any mad scientist, his efforts devise awe and whimsy. Danielle Bernabe, Fortune, 3 July 2021 When the headmaster, the sophisticated Dr. Curtain appears to be behind this panic, the kids of The Mysterious Benedict Society must devise a plan to defeat him. Angela Dawson, Forbes, 24 June 2021 Hanna is hopeful that in the future, researchers will devise a CRISPR-Cas12 clinical trial that uses a method other than chemotherapy to get rid of the defective cells. Julie Washington, cleveland, 16 June 2021 Many, such as UNC’s, are based at academic medical centers where patient care is married with ongoing research in an effort to better understand what causes these persistent problems, predict who is most vulnerable and devise the best treatments. Melba Newsome, Scientific American, 30 June 2021 The architect would have to navigate tricky geographical terrain as well as devise an efficient, compact footprint for the house., 25 June 2021 Managers needed to devise a method to recalibrate their relationships with subordinates. New York Times, 24 June 2021 Other parks need to devise similar tools, as well as complete one particularly critical task: hire more rangers and park staff. Angela Lashbrook,, 21 May 2021 The staff at the school are all working together with his parents to devise a plan going forward. Washington Post, 20 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Grogan, over his two decades as CEO, figured out the nonprofit could drive change by combining the power of research on critical topics such as affordable housing and education reform with its ability to convene stakeholders and devise solutions., 13 July 2021 Some fear China could use such data to give its drug industry an economic advantage, devise bioweapons tailored to Americans’ genetics, or even blackmail people by threatening to publicize private information. Jocelyn Kaiser, Science | AAAS, 14 June 2021 So Fuer had a millworker devise custom red covers, which connect to a red bookcase tucked between the room’s two windows. Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, 1 Apr. 2021 The group has been working with Teen Vogue editors to firm up their collections and devise plans that are pandemic-proof. Vogue Runway, Vogue, 23 Oct. 2020 Citizens have a right to expect that their leaders will prepare for the unthinkable and devise systems that are nimble enough to respond. Editorial Board Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 21 Oct. 2020 State authorities organized an online meeting last month with presiding judges statewide to recommend each devise a system to meet local needs. oregonlive, 12 Aug. 2020 The city has budgeted $15 million to replace 85,000 residential, commercial and industrial water meters with digital devises that allow for more accurate billing and improve leak detection. Robin Goist, cleveland, 11 Feb. 2020 Evangelista ignored commands to surrender, and the SWAT team deployed noise and flash devises, the statement says. Anchorage Daily News, 26 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'devise.' 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 devise


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for devise

Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French deviser, diviser, to divide, distinguish, invent, from Vulgar Latin *divisare, frequentative of Latin dividere to divide

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Time Traveler for devise

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The first known use of devise was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near devise

devisat vel non



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Last Updated

19 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Devise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for devise



English Language Learners Definition of devise

: to invent or plan (something that is difficult or complicated)


de·​vise | \ di-ˈvīz How to pronounce devise (audio) \
devised; devising

Kids Definition of devise

: to think up : plan, invent We devised a plan to win.


transitive verb
de·​vise | \ di-ˈvīz How to pronounce devise (audio) \
devised; devising

Legal Definition of devise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to give (property) by will specifically : to give (real property) by will — compare alienate, bequeath, convey

Other Words from devise

devisable adjective
devisor \ ˌde-​və-​ˈzȯr; di-​ˈvī-​ˌzȯr, -​zər How to pronounce devise (audio) \ noun



Legal Definition of devise (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a gift of property made in a will specifically : a gift of real property made in a will — see also abate, ademption — compare distribution

Note: Formerly devise was used to refer only to gifts of real property, and legacy and bequest were used only to refer to gifts of personal property. These distinctions are no longer closely followed. The Uniform Probate Code uses devise to refer to any gifts made in a will.

executory devise
: a devise of an interest in land that will vest in the future upon the occurrence of a contingency and that can follow a fee simple estate

Note: Executory devises were invented as a way of getting around the rule in Shelley's case, which is now largely abolished.

general devise
: a devise that is to be distributed from the general assets of an estate and that is not of a particular thing
residuary devise
: a devise of whatever is left in an estate after all other debts and devises have been paid or distributed
specific devise
: a devise of a particular item or part of an estate that is payable only from a specified source in the estate and not from the general assets
2 : a clause in a will disposing of property and especially real property
3 : property disposed of by a will

History and Etymology for devise

Transitive verb

Anglo-French deviser to divide, share, bequeath, ultimately from Latin dividere to divide

More from Merriam-Webster on devise

Nglish: Translation of devise for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of devise for Arabic Speakers


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