de·​vo·​lu·​tion | \ˌde-və-ˈlü-shən also ˌdē-və- \

Definition of devolution 

1 : transference (as of rights, powers, property, or responsibility) to another especially : the surrender of powers to local authorities by a central government

2 : retrograde (see retrograde entry 1 sense 2) evolution : degeneration

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from devolution

devolutionary \-​shə-​ˌner-​ē \ adjective
devolutionist \-​sh(ə-​)nist \ noun

Examples of devolution in a Sentence

the gradual devolution of the neighborhood from a thriving community of close-knit families to a drug-ridden slum

Recent Examples on the Web

Such were the devolutions and betrayals in those days, and retrogressions to the ways of shame. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "The Book of Donald," 4 Oct. 2018 Elsewhere Kevin Roose wades through tweets and Facebook posts to chart the alleged mail bomber’s devolution into a fringe conspiracy theorist and terrorist. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Why social media is friend to far-right politicians around the world," 30 Oct. 2018 That would come to Scotland with devolution in 1999. The Economist, "The siren call of separatism," 12 July 2018 Her Colorado colleague over at the Interior Department, James Watt, sought a similar devolution of control over federal lands; OSHA and FDA were also targeted. Christopher Sellers, Vox, "How Republicans came to embrace anti-environmentalism," 6 July 2018 Speaking to Bloomberg Daybreak Europe’s Caroline Hepker and Anna Edwards, Andy Burnham discussed Brexit, austerity Britain and the benefits of devolution., "Burnham: Renationalizing Some Utilities Makes Sense," 6 Apr. 2018 In describing their company's devolution today, the brothers accentuate the positive. Morgan Watkins, The Courier-Journal, "Bevin 'unbelievably confident' in state-funded Braidy Industries CEO with mixed record," 18 Mar. 2018 Tabula Rasa is frustrated with tropes, much like Mie is exasperated by her own devolution. Rebecca Farley,, "Is Tabula Rasa The New The OA?," 15 Mar. 2018 The Treasury hijacked devolution as a way of devolving responsibility for making cuts, while keeping the power to make policy. The Economist, "Britain needs to work harder at making a success of devolution," 22 Feb. 2018

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

1545, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for devolution

Medieval Latin devolution-, devolutio, from Latin devolvere — see devolve

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about devolution

Share devolution

Dictionary Entries near devolution








Statistics for devolution

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for devolution

The first known use of devolution was in 1545

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for devolution



English Language Learners Definition of devolution

: the act or process by which a central government gives power, property, etc., to local groups or governments


de·​vo·​lu·​tion | \ˌde-və-ˈlü-shən, ˌdē- \

Legal Definition of devolution 

: the transfer (as of rights, powers, property, or responsibility) to another

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on devolution

What made you want to look up devolution? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Dictionary Devil

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!