evo·​lu·​tion | \ˌe-və-ˈlü-shən, ˌē-və-\

Definition of evolution 

1a : descent with modification from preexisting species : cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms : the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from preexisting forms through successive generations Evolution is a process of continuous branching and diversification from common trunks. This pattern of irreversible separation gives life's history its basic directionality.— Stephen Jay Gould also : the scientific theory explaining the appearance of new species and varieties through the action of various biological mechanisms (such as natural selection, genetic mutation or drift, and hybridization) Since 1950, developments in molecular biology have had a growing influence on the theory of evolution. Nature In Darwinian evolution, the basic mechanism is genetic mutation, followed by selection of the organisms most likely to survive. — Pamela Weintraub

b : the historical development of a biological group (such as a race or species) : phylogeny

2a : a process of change in a certain direction : unfolding

b : the action or an instance of forming and giving something off : emission

c(1) : a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state : growth

(2) : a process of gradual and relatively peaceful social, political, and economic advance

d : something evolved

3 : the process of working out or developing

4 : the extraction of a mathematical root

5 : a process in which the whole universe is a progression of interrelated phenomena

6 : one of a set of prescribed movements

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Other Words from evolution

evolutionarily \ ˌe-​və-​ˈlü-​shə-​ˌner-​ə-​lē , ˌē-​və-​ \ adverb
evolutionary \ ˌe-​və-​ˈlü-​shə-​ˌner-​ē , ˌē-​və-​ \ adjective
evolutionism \ ˌe-​və-​ˈlü-​shə-​ˌni-​zəm , ˌē-​və-​ \ noun
evolutionist \ ˌe-​və-​ˈlü-​sh(ə-​)nist , ˌē-​və-​ \ noun or adjective

Examples of evolution in a Sentence

changes brought about by evolution an important step in the evolution of computers

Recent Examples on the Web

The next generation of missile defense should not be a small evolution. Henry Obering Iii, Fortune, "I Used to Direct the Missile Defense Agency. America Needs New Weapons," 5 July 2018 The Democratic path seems to be more incremental evolution. Thomas Beaumont, The Seattle Times, "Democrats test liberal messages in midterm House elections," 11 June 2018 Both products are logical evolutions of classic Yeti models. Ariella Gintzler, Outside Online, "Yeti Launches a Water Cooler and Backpack," 31 May 2018 More: Old City Hall could become Indianapolis' new city hall again The initiative is an evolution of a program announced to much fanfare last year, the Indianapolis Promise. James Briggs, Indianapolis Star, "Mayor Joe Hogsett sets lofty education goal for Indianapolis," 29 May 2018 The result is a full evolution of running shoe that goes far beyond what was possible in 1993. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "How Running Shoes Changed Over 25 Years," 21 May 2018 The cheongsam is an evolution of the qipao, a Chinese dress dating back to the Han Dynasty, writes Vogue. Sean Rossman, USA TODAY, "Chinese prom dress draws rage, but Utah student said she meant no harm," 1 May 2018 While the storefront shift is the most obvious evolution for the business, what’s cooking in the kitchen is worth watching, too. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville breakfast staple Nancy’s Bagel Grounds looks to expand to dinner crowd," 30 Apr. 2018 This is a necessary evolution as the status quo begins to expire. Russell Okung, Time, "Super Bowl Winner: Top NFL Prospect Lamar Jackson Could Change Football’s Power Structure," 24 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'evolution.' 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 evolution

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 6

History and Etymology for evolution

Latin evolution-, evolutio unrolling, from evolvere

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Statistics for evolution

Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for evolution

The first known use of evolution was in 1616

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More Definitions for evolution


evo·​lu·​tion | \ˌe-və-ˈlü-shən, ˌē-və-\

Kids Definition of evolution

1 : the theory that the various kinds of existing animals and plants have come from kinds that existed in the past

2 : the process of development of an animal or a plant


evo·​lu·​tion | \ˌev-ə-ˈlü-shən also ˌē-və-\

Medical Definition of evolution 

1 : a process of change in a certain direction tumor evolution and progression— I. J. Fidler et al

2a : the historical development of a biological group (as a race or species) : phylogeny

b : a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations

Other Words from evolution

evolutionarily \ -​shə-​ˌner-​ə-​lē \ adverb
evolutionary \ -​shə-​ˌner-​ē \ adjective

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Comments on evolution

What made you want to look up evolution? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

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