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

Washington in the Trump era can often feel like a sort of bumper-car ride of competing news cycles, devolving into a pileup of rival controversies, scandals, and social-media contretemps. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "“Congratulations Again, Mr. President”: Trump and the Co-opting of the G.O.P.," 12 July 2019 What starts as a normal interaction in a diner quickly devolves into a spiral of anxiety, as the video becomes more and more surreal by the second. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Pride Picks: 6 New Songs & Videos From LGBTQ Artists to Check Out This Weekend," 21 June 2019 For some, Huawei is a case in point on how the trade war between China and the U.S. has devolved into a tech war, where rival blocs will only use technology from their allies. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "Is Tech Too Intertwined For Huawei To Fall? — Data Sheet," 19 June 2019 There’s no point in dwelling on hypotheticals for Golden State, not when the season devolved into a sporting tragedy. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "The Warriors’ season crashed, but it was one to remember," 15 June 2019 Filipinos voted in midterm elections that polls suggest could strengthen President Rodrigo Duterte’s support and his plans to reintroduce the death penalty and devolve more power to the different regions of the Philippines. Jake Maxwell Watts, WSJ, "Philippines’ Midterm Election Looks Likely to Boost Duterte," 13 May 2019 Two years ago, the race devolved in a wild west wreck-fest that ended with only eight of the 22 cars that started the race still on track. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "IndyCar wraps up grueling stretch with second half of Texas two-step," 5 June 2019 The parade devolved into a show-and-tell, a meet-and-greet. Joan Niesen, SI.com, "St. Louis Blues' Stanley Cup Parade Felt Like Redemption," 16 June 2019 However, those types of games can also devolve into dull, defensive affairs where both teams defend in large numbers and wait patiently for an opportunity on a corner kick. Mark Goodman, The Denver Post, "Backpass: Wins are fixing the Rapids’ serious attendance problem in Commerce City," 7 June 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

18 Jul 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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