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

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 Brexit devolved into an identity war: an English counter-revolution between nationalists and internationalists, country geezers versus young metropolitans, Little England versus Great Britain. Tina Brown, Time, "Tina Brown: How Britain Lost the Plot Over Brexit," 6 June 2019 This isn’t the first time a study has changed an animal’s species designation: In 2016, one species of giraffe was split into four, and in 2017, one species of silky anteater devolved into seven. Rachel Fobar, National Geographic, "Endangered armadillos are being turned into carnival rattles," 22 Feb. 2019 Their familiar sleepy hometown quickly devolves into a mad scramble for food, supplies, alliances, and power as a brand-new society buds. Jill Gutowitz, Glamour, "Netflix’s The Society Is a Lot More Real Than You Think," 13 May 2019 The scene devolved into a scrum and players had to be separated by coaches and officials. Joe Freeman, OregonLive.com, "New Orleans Pelicans sweep Portland Trail Blazers with 131-123 Game 4 win: Rapid Reaction," 21 Apr. 2018 His mouth curls into a wide smile before devolving into a deep belly laugh. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "The A1000 Is Disney's Advanced Animatronic Bringing the Galaxy's Edge Star Wars Theme Park To Life," 28 Feb. 2019 The left’s most sacred value, diversity, trumps notions of unity, assimilation and order, ultimately leaving society to devolve into a modern-day Tower of Babel. Bobby Jindal, WSJ, "The Roots of Political Polarization," 1 Nov. 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

20 Jun 2019

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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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