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

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 began being used in early Middle English, its Anglo-French forebear deviser had accumulated an array of senses, including "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, such as "imagine," "guess," "pretend," and "describe." In modern use, we've disposed of a lot of the old meanings, but we have kept the one that applies to wills; devise has traditionally referred to the transfer of real property (land), and bequeath to personal property. These days, this devise is most 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 Treatment: See a dermatologist, who can help devise the right psoriasis treatment plan for you. Alyssa Jung, Good Housekeeping, 17 July 2022 Director Elizabeth Biggins-Ramer to discontinue the use of an evaluation team to help devise a second garbage collection survey. cleveland, 15 July 2022 Terry Cunningham, deputy executive director of the IACP, and Jim Pasco, executive director of the FOP, worked with Biden administration officials such as Susan Rice and Vanita Gupta to devise the executive order. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, 25 May 2022 Our goal is to help devise a system that someday will allow someone who has lost the sense of touch to feel a loved one’s hand again. David Caldwell, The Conversation, 30 Mar. 2022 An organized approach to cataloging attack cases will help devise the most optimal strategy in facing the increasing threats of cybervandalism. Gary Fowler, Forbes, 7 Apr. 2021 When the superintendent, Vincent Matthews, proposed using grant money to hire a consultant to help devise a reopening plan, the board voted against it, in part because the consultant had connections to charter schools. New York Times, 29 Mar. 2021 Only then can employers proactively devise effective financial policies that address the specific needs of their employees and improve their sense of financial well-being. Sammy Rubin, Forbes, 21 June 2022 Khalifa’s gym focus has led him to devise a strict training plan. Mark Lelinwalla, Men's Health, 23 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In a statement Friday, the IS-K said the explosive devise that devastated Mazar-e-Sharif's Sai Doken mosque was hidden in a bag left inside among scores of worshippers. Kathy Gannon And Mohammad Shaob Amin, USA TODAY, 22 Apr. 2022 When the pandemic required the district to implement remote learning in March of last year, the district was forced to assure all students were issued an electronic devise. Steve Sadin,, 22 Dec. 2021 This is often a preferable arrangement if the couple's intent is for the surviving partner to have complete ownership of the home since this transfer is automatic by operation of law and not dependent upon a devise under a will. Matthew Erskine, Forbes, 8 Nov. 2021 Ally expects to surface in some of the content that creators who take part in the program devise. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 16 Oct. 2021 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 See More

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.

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

Learn More About devise

Time Traveler for devise

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About devise

Dictionary Entries Near devise

devisat vel non



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for devise

Last Updated

31 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Devise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for devise


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


Test Your Vocabulary

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!