devolve

verb
de·​volve | \ di-ˈvälv How to pronounce devolve (audio) , -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

But, since the internet is the internet, what should have been just a few quick jokes about baby poop devolved into a contentious back-and-forth in comments. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, "Kristen Bell Shut Down an Instagram Follower Who Said She's "Exploiting" a Kid for Her New Line," 26 Feb. 2019 Alas, starving my kids and/or letting their hunger devolve into tantrums is not a feasible way forward for me. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Picky Eaters? For Parents, Food-Shaming Is All Too Real," 28 Jan. 2019 Because responsibility devolves downward, no single entity gets stuck tracking and dispatching an unwieldy number of DERs. David Roberts, Vox, "Clean energy technologies threaten to overwhelm the grid. Here’s how it can adapt.," 30 Nov. 2018 In addition to the June 30 rally that ended with police declaring a riot, a June 4 event devolved into fistfights and assaults by both sides as police struggled to keep the groups apart. Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, "Heavy police presence as Patriot Prayer group rallies in Portland, Oregon," 5 Aug. 2018 In contrast, the South looked cluttered from the start and only devolved into chaos. Jon Wilner Pac-12 Hotline, The Seattle Times, "Way-too-early Pac-12 football predictions: Can Washington rule the North once again?," 23 Jan. 2019 The House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Wednesday afternoon devolved partisan finger-pointing — a markedly different tone from the largely bipartisan and cordial Senate hearing this morning. Jen Kirby, Vox, "5 things you may have missed from the Facebook and Twitter hearings on Capitol Hill," 6 Sep. 2018 The photo shoot devolved into a discussion of local coffee shops. Abby Ohlheiser, chicagotribune.com, "YouTube is the new way to get famous; at VidCon, the tweens want to be next in line," 27 June 2018 But in the years following my parents’ breakup, my charmed upbringing devolved into one that included social workers and even a summer living in a homeless shelter. Maisha Leek, Marie Claire, "Once I Was Homeless, Now I Advise Silicon Valley," 28 Jan. 2019

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

14 Mar 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

formal
chiefly US : 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 How to pronounce devolve (audio) \
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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