devolve

verb
de·​volve | \ di-ˈvälv, -ˈvȯlv, dē-\
devolved; devolving

Definition of devolve 

transitive verb

: to pass on (something, such as responsibility, rights, or powers) from one person or entity to another devolving to western Europe full responsibility for its own defense— Christopher Lane

intransitive verb

1a : to pass by transmission or succession the estate devolved on a distant cousin
b : to fall or be passed usually as a responsibility or obligation the responsibility for breadwinning has devolved increasingly upon women— Barbara Ehrenreich
2 : to come by or as if by flowing down streams devolving from the mountains his allegedly subversive campaigns … devolve from his belief in basic American rights— Frank Deford
3 : to degenerate through a gradual change or evolution The scene devolved into chaos.

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The Evolution of Devolve

Devolve evolved from Latin volvere, a word that means "to roll." The prefix de- means "down." (Other words that revolve around volvere are the five other words containing -vol- found in this paragraph.) Knowing which preposition to use with devolve can seem a bit involved, but it's really not all that convoluted. Responsibility or rights devolve "on," "upon," or "to" someone. When something comes into a present state by flowing down from a source, either literally or figuratively, we say "devolve from," as in "customs that devolve from old beliefs." And when the devolving is a downward evolution to a lower state we say "devolves into" (or sometimes "devolves to"), as in "order devolves into chaos."

Examples of devolve in a Sentence

She cynically asserts that our species is devolving. Somehow the debate devolved into a petty competition to see who could get more applause. Community leaders hope that the new government will devolve more power to the community itself. Responsibility has devolved to the individual teachers.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Netanyahu's visit to Sderot comes a day after an informal cease-fire took hold to end 24 hours of intense fighting with Gaza's Hamas militants that had threatened to devolve into all-out war. Aron Heller, Fox News, "Netanyahu visits southern region following Gaza escalation," 16 July 2018 The redevelopment commission hearing devolved into some humor as James Nowacki, who owns approximately 400 plots scattered across Gary, responded to the lack of interest by offering to pay $100, in cash, for the Genesis Convention Center. Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune, "Gary strikes out on selling properties," 22 June 2018 For one brief, bizarre moment, Sunday’s College World Series game between Texas and Arkansas devolved into a schoolyard shoving match. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Arkansas takes down Texas with big inning," 17 June 2018 Last year’s pack race devolved into mayhem that could have gotten one of us killed. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: IndyCar strikes balance between bonkers and boring at Texas," 10 June 2018 But the 50-square-mile lake, considered Florida’s fourth-largest, devolved from a fishing paradise to a toxic cesspool during a half-century of environmental abuse beginning in the 1940s with chemical runoff from vegetable farms. Stephen Hudak, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Winter Garden buys lakefront properties, envisions 'nicest park on Lake Apopka'," 8 June 2018 The scene, as captured in the video above, devolved into chaos anyway. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "New Banksy video shows Girl with Balloon should have been totally shredded," 18 Oct. 2018 The situation then devolved into one of the most hard-to-watch, enraging, and heartbreaking moments in sports history, especially as a black woman. Zerlina Maxwell, Teen Vogue, "Serena Williams’ Treatment at the U.S. Open Is About More Than Tennis," 10 Sep. 2018 However, the speech quickly devolved into a tribute to herself. Christina Coleman, Glamour, "We Need to Talk About Madonna's 'Tribute' to Aretha Franklin at the 2018 VMAs," 21 Aug. 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for devolve

Middle English, from Latin devolvere, from de- + volvere to roll — more at voluble

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Dictionary Entries near devolve

devolatilize

devolute

devolution

devolve

devon

Devon

Devonian

Statistics for devolve

Last Updated

3 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for devolve

The first known use of devolve was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for devolve

devolve

verb

English Language Learners Definition of devolve

: to gradually go from an advanced state to a less advanced state

: to pass (responsibility, power, etc.) from one person or group to another person or group at a lower level of authority

: to be given to someone after the owner has died

de·​volve | \ di-ˈvȯlv, -ˈvälv \
devolved; devolving

Legal Definition of devolve 

1 : to pass by transfer or succession the estate devolved to a distant cousin
2 : to fall or be passed usually as an obligation or responsibility in case of the removal of the President from office, or of his…inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice PresidentU.S. Constitution art. II

History and Etymology for devolve

Medieval Latin devolvi, passive of devolvere to roll down, from Latin, from de down, away + volvere to roll

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More from Merriam-Webster on devolve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with devolve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for devolve

Nglish: Translation of devolve for Spanish Speakers

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