de·​vo·​lu·​tion | \ ˌde-və-ˈlü-shən How to pronounce devolution (audio) 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

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Other Words from devolution

devolutionary \ ˌde-​və-​ˈlü-​shə-​ˌner-​ē How to pronounce devolution (audio) also  ˌdē-​və-​ \ adjective
devolutionist \ ˌde-​və-​ˈlü-​sh(ə-​)nist How to pronounce devolution (audio) also  ˌdē-​və-​ \ 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 Democracies in sectarian societies often create institutional arrangements to protect the minority, like minority or group rights, power-sharing agreements, devolution or home rule. New York Times, "Why Political Sectarianism Is a Growing Threat to American Democracy," 19 Apr. 2021 We should be upset by Zac’s villainous devolution and torn by who might be the better leader. Lindsey Bahr, Detroit Free Press, "Young Adult thriller ‘Voyagers’ never quite takes off," 9 Apr. 2021 Over the years it has been divided on Europe, NATO and devolution. The Economist, "The return of Alex Salmond," 31 Mar. 2021 The relatively rapid devolution in the debate reflects both the readily apparent realities of it and the increasing defeatism and partisanship in Washington. Washington Post, "Live updates The 10 Boulder victims are remembered fondly," 24 Mar. 2021 The problems that plague the current game, the scourges that Epstein intends to target, have worsened over the past five seasons, and nowhere is that devolution more evident than at Target Field. Phil Miller, Star Tribune, "Twins offense has had a very hit-or-miss approach," 13 Feb. 2021 Though some researchers say that the scale and severity of ransomware attacks crossed a bright line in 2020, others describe this year as simply the next step in a gradual and, unfortunately, predictable devolution. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Ransomware Is Headed Down a Dire Path," 29 Dec. 2020 Labour began the experiment 20 years ago, as part of its devolution strategy. The Economist, "The fight between central government and city mayors over lockdown," 24 Oct. 2020 But the question of independence, or at the very least devolution of power, remained of interest to Scots. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "A Not-So-Brief History of Scottish Independence," 30 Jan. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for devolution

Time Traveler

The first known use of devolution was in 1545

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Statistics for devolution

Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Devolution.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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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- How to pronounce devolution (audio) \

Legal Definition of devolution

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

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