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 devolutionary (audio) also  ˌdē-​və-​ \ adjective
devolutionist \ ˌde-​və-​ˈlü-​sh(ə-​)nist How to pronounce devolutionist (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 The group that made every opponent’s offensive possession miserable for the past few weeks turned into a lifeless turnstile, a devolution made worse by what was at stake — sole possession of third place, win No. Nick Moyle,, "Abrupt end to Texas’ season could make AD Chris Del Conte’s coaching decision more vexing," 17 Mar. 2020 As a part of the bra’s devolution, a dude gets credited with creating the padded bra back in the 1940s. Katti Gray, Washington Post, "Sisters, it’s time to stop tugging and squeezing and find the perfect bra," 11 Oct. 2019 Much of this evolution, or devolution, has been well chronicled online. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Feels Good Man': Film Review | Sundance 2020," 27 Jan. 2020 Related Entertainment Hank Azaria to Quit Voicing Apu on The Simpsons: Report Maybe the devolution of free viewing options doesn’t seem like such a tragedy; anyone can borrow a book from a library, after all. Judy Berman, Time, "The Good Place Became the Last Great Sitcom on Network TV by Daring Its Audience to Be Better," 23 Jan. 2020 There are scholars who agree that devolution of power from central to regional governments can indeed fuel separatism, rather than calming it down. The Economist, "The World in 2020 The coming surge of separatism," 30 Dec. 2019 Gateshead refused to join a devolution project centred around Newcastle, on the other side of the Tyne. The Economist, "Who are the Conservatives’ new voters in the north?," 18 Dec. 2019 But that still leaves unresolved issues in the north and east: genuine devolution; justice for war crimes; and deep social and economic scars from the war. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "A Sri Lankan author remembers the easy, “mixed fruit” society before the civil war tore it apart," 22 Nov. 2019 Between Powell’s time and our own, the rifts have widened: the United Kingdom’s component parts began to express their own identities more fully, and to seek greater devolution from Westminster. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "From Little Englanders to Brexiteers," 11 Nov. 2019

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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Cite this Entry

“Devolution.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for devolution


How to pronounce devolution (audio)

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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