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

Did You Know?


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 In part, this was because the average age of patients was lower, but the improved chances of survival were also the result of flattening the curve, which gave doctors and scientists the time to devise more effective treatments, such as proning. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, "The Plague Year," 28 Dec. 2020 Store security workers are kept on their toes as shoplifters devise new ways to conceal thefts. Joan Rusek, cleveland, "Shoplifters keep officers busy at Market Place shops: Bainbridge Township police blotter," 21 Dec. 2020 In 2019, Trump and Democrats reached a tentative agreement to devise a $2-trillion infrastructure plan. Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times, "Despite his boasts, Trump again is no deal-maker as Congress seeks pandemic relief bill," 20 Dec. 2020 About four months ago, Scott, one of the wealthiest people in the world, tasked a team of advisers to devise a plan to speed up her donations this year. Valeria Olivares, Dallas News, "Texas universities, nonprofits surprised by more than $100 million in gifts," 17 Dec. 2020 The bye week will give defensive coordinator Clark Lea extra time to devise a plan against North Carolina. Tyler James, The Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame QB Ian Book's ascent beats Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec's revenge plot," 15 Nov. 2020 Back in March, the Detroit Three—along with other automakers around the globe—decided to pause production to keep workers safe and ultimately, devise a plan for bringing their employees back to work. Colin Beresford, Car and Driver, "Auto Profits Abound in Third Quarter Thanks to Strong Truck, SUV Sales," 6 Nov. 2020 On April 6, an international governing body for the sport, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, put out a call for public health professionals in their midst to come together and devise a plan. Christie Aschwanden, Wired, "Women’s Roller Derby Has a Plan for Covid, and It Kicks Ass," 2 July 2020 With limited supplies, hospitals are having to devise rationing methods, navigating ethical, legal and practical challenges of coordinating a mass vaccination campaign among employees as shots become available. Jared S. Hopkins, WSJ, "Pfizer Expands Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout to Hospitals Across the U.S.," 15 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The group has been working with Teen Vogue editors to firm up their collections and devise plans that are pandemic-proof. Vogue Runway, Vogue, "Meet the 5 Young Designers in Teen Vogue’s Generation Next Program," 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, "Minnesota makes belated strides on civil unrest planning," 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, "Oregon courts look to improve notification process as attorneys worry of COVID-19 risks," 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, "Akron City Council passes capital investment plan, more than half going for water and sewer projects," 11 Feb. 2020 Evangelista ignored commands to surrender, and the SWAT team deployed noise and flash devises, the statement says. Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage man convicted of attempted murder in May shootings that led to police standoff," 26 Sep. 2019 Unlike with alcohol, there is nothing like a Breathalyzer devise for cannabis that police can use. Sam Wood,, "Medical marijuana patients, legally banned from driving, may get a pass in Pa.," 18 June 2018 A week later, undetonated explosive devises were found on another ferry. Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY, "U.S. Embassy in Mexico City downgrades threat on traveling to Playa del Carmen," 12 Mar. 2018 My coping devise for this conundrum, at least on the breakfast front, is to concentrate my efforts on the weekend. Yotam Ottolenghi, New York Times, "Weekend Breakfasts to Warm the Heart, and Belly," 18 Dec. 2017

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for devise

Last Updated

8 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Devise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for devise


How to pronounce devise (audio)

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.
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

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