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.
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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
Portland's march was marked by its peaceful tenor, a change from other recent demonstrations that devolved into violence or property damage.
The current Republican executive with day-to-day control couldn’t be replaced for at least two years, perhaps indefinitely if the board devolves into partisan deadlocks as the Federal Elections Commission has done for years, Cooper’s attorneys said.
The mission devolved into a firefight, which involved SEALs, Harrier jets, helicopters, and armed jihadis.
As neighborhood butcher shops have gone the way of the compact disc, the mass production of protein has devolved into something creepily assembly-lined and abstract.
As such, the final third of the book devolves somewhat into a morass of abbreviations, reports from conferences, and policy discussions folded into canned dialogue.
Some fighting is absolutely necessary to ensure that hockey doesn’t devolve into the Gladiator games that critics of violence already believe the sport has become.
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.
Did You Know?
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."
Origin and Etymology of devolve
Middle English, from Latin devolvere, from de- + volvere to roll — more at voluble
First Known Use: 15th century
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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