de·​vo·​lu·​tion ˌde-və-ˈlü-shən How to pronounce devolution (audio)
 also  ˌdē-və-
: transference (as of rights, powers, property, or responsibility) to another
especially : the surrender of powers to local authorities by a central government
: retrograde (see retrograde entry 1 sense 2) evolution : degeneration
ˌde-və-ˈlü-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce devolution (audio)
 also  ˌdē-və-
ˌde-və-ˈlü-sh(ə-)nist How to pronounce devolution (audio)
 also  ˌdē-və-

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 The idea also follows the general devolution of government control to 47 counties, following directives in Kenya’s 2010 Constitution to decentralize the government. Ali Martin, The Christian Science Monitor, 25 July 2023 News on July 17 Netflix’s streaming revolution and talent compensation devolution In spearheading the streaming revolution, Netflix had a large impact in rewriting the rules of remuneration. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 18 July 2023 The devolution of the USA Network, where Suits first aired, tells the story of a flailing medium. Time, 11 Aug. 2023 The moment is therefore ripe for a transition to democracy and a devolution of power to the regional levels. Garry Kasparov, Foreign Affairs, 20 Jan. 2023 Many of the Party’s senior figures have been colleagues since devolution brought fresh powers to the Scottish government, in the late nineteen-nineties. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 12 June 2023 The twenty-first century will be defined in part by the U.S.-Chinese relationship and its possible devolution into war. Rachel Carson, Foreign Affairs, 6 Sep. 2022 Corbijn hints at this devolution in the opening shot of 76-year-old Powell carrying a Hipgnosis poster on his back. Armond White, National Review, 23 June 2023 In 1997, a majority of Scottish people voted for devolution in a referendum, which gave then-UK prime minister Tony Blair the mandate to pass a bill to establish a Scottish parliament and government which can rule on a number of issues such as health care and education. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 22 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'devolution.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Medieval Latin dēvolūtiōn-, dēvolūtiō "passage of time, passing down of a task, transference of legal proceedings," from Latin dēvolū-, variant stem of dēvolvere "to roll (something) down, (in passive voice) sink or fall back, become subject to, be passed down to (an heir)" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at devolve

First Known Use

1545, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of devolution was in 1545

Dictionary Entries Near devolution

Cite this Entry

“Devolution.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Legal Definition


de·​vo·​lu·​tion ˌde-və-ˈlü-shən, ˌdē- How to pronounce devolution (audio)
: the transfer (as of rights, powers, property, or responsibility) to another

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