Definition of devolve
: 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
1a : to pass by transmission or succession the estate devolved on a distant cousinb : 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.
devolve was our Word of the Day on 09/10/2016. Hear the podcast!
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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.
Recent Examples of devolve from the Web
Since the Finals ended June 12, the league has devolved into its annual summer madness.
And despite Spider-Man: Homecoming making so many smart choices, truly nothing can stop a superhero movie from having an overlong final fight that eventually devolves into two people bashing each other in low light.
What should be a collection of professionals evolving as a unit instead devolves into a group of mercenaries punching a clock, cashing a check and marking time.
PUENTES: As with other areas of infrastructure, recommendations for passenger rail tend to devolve into calls for increased federal spending.
A half-century ago, when the highway was being built, the uphill neighborhoods, Capitol Hill and First Hill, became unstable, with small landslides threatening to devolve into larger, catastrophic ones.
VanderMeer’s undeniable skill as a writer keeps what could be an unwieldy blur of a plot from devolving into grim melodrama or atmospheric nihilism.
Beginning on April 1, anti-government demonstrators have staged daily protests across Venezuela that continue to devolve into violent clashes with riot police, leaving thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and 66 dead.
Spalding chose to focus on the themes of evolving, integrating, and devolving.
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.
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."
DEVOLVE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of devolve for English Language Learners
: 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
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 President — U.S. Constitution art. II
Origin and Etymology of devolve
Medieval Latin devolvi, passive of devolvere to roll down, from Latin, from de down, away + volvere to roll
Seen and Heard
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