de·​vise | \ di-ˈvīz How to pronounce devise (audio) \
devised; devising

Definition of devise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to form in the mind by new combinations or applications of ideas or principles : invent devise a new strategy
b archaic : conceive, imagine
c : to plan to obtain or bring about : plot devise one's death
2 law : to give (real estate) by will (see will entry 2 sense 1) — compare bequeath



Definition of devise (Entry 2 of 2)

1 law : the act of giving or disposing of real (see real entry 1 sense 2) property by will (see will entry 2 sense 1)
2 law : a will or clause of a will disposing of real property
3 law : property devised by will

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Other Words from devise


devisable \ di-​ˈvī-​zə-​bəl How to pronounce devise (audio) \ adjective
deviser noun

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There's something inventive about devise, a word that stems from Latin dividere, meaning "to divide." By the time devise appeared in English in the 1200s, its Anglo-French forebear deviser had accumulated an array of senses, including "to divide," "distribute," "arrange," "array," "digest," "order," "plan," "invent," "contrive," and "assign by will." English adopted most of these and added some new senses over the course of time: "to imagine," "guess," "pretend," and "describe." In modern use, we've disposed of a lot of the old meanings, but we kept the one that applies to wills. Devise traditionally referred to the transfer of real property (land), and bequeath to personal property; these days, however, devise is often recognized as applying generally to all the property in a person's estate.

Examples of devise in a Sentence

Verb They have devised a new method for converting sunlight into electricity. she quickly devised a new scheme when the first one failed
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Cleveland task force has gathered information on high-crash locations across the city, and will devise specific recommendations for those areas, VanSickle said. Steven Litt, cleveland, 5 Oct. 2021 None of the major religions officially oppose vaccination, but that hasn’t stopped a growing cottage industry from helping people devise religious arguments to get out of taking a COVID-19 shot., 18 Sep. 2021 The high but confusing drama of the moment concerns whether the parties can devise a long-term trade deal that eliminates tariffs and loosens regulatory red tape at the borders. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, 17 Dec. 2020 Fisher will need to devise plenty of quick passes and cross his fingers the running game can carry its share of the offense against the Razorbacks, but that’s easier said than done against SEC defenses. Brent Zwerneman, San Antonio Express-News, 18 Sep. 2021 Lawmakers appear to have only a few weeks to devise a plan for approving the federal government's debt limit before the U.S. Treasury is forced to delay or miss payments. Arkansas Online, 17 Sep. 2021 Research has yet to devise an effective treatment for the disease the twins faced. Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 23 Aug. 2021 Strength Bowflex has yet to devise a workout machine that adequately strengthens the grip. David Wharton, Los Angeles Times, 5 Aug. 2021 So Comfort had to devise an argument for keeping affirmative action while limiting the open use of race in admissions. Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, 26 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Grogan, over his two decades as CEO, figured out the nonprofit could drive change by combining the power of research on critical topics such as affordable housing and education reform with its ability to convene stakeholders and devise solutions., 13 July 2021 Some fear China could use such data to give its drug industry an economic advantage, devise bioweapons tailored to Americans’ genetics, or even blackmail people by threatening to publicize private information. Jocelyn Kaiser, Science | AAAS, 14 June 2021 So Fuer had a millworker devise custom red covers, which connect to a red bookcase tucked between the room’s two windows. Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, 1 Apr. 2021 The group has been working with Teen Vogue editors to firm up their collections and devise plans that are pandemic-proof. Vogue Runway, Vogue, 23 Oct. 2020 Citizens have a right to expect that their leaders will prepare for the unthinkable and devise systems that are nimble enough to respond. Editorial Board Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 21 Oct. 2020 State authorities organized an online meeting last month with presiding judges statewide to recommend each devise a system to meet local needs. oregonlive, 12 Aug. 2020 The city has budgeted $15 million to replace 85,000 residential, commercial and industrial water meters with digital devises that allow for more accurate billing and improve leak detection. Robin Goist, cleveland, 11 Feb. 2020 Evangelista ignored commands to surrender, and the SWAT team deployed noise and flash devises, the statement says. Anchorage Daily News, 26 Sep. 2019

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for devise

Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French deviser, diviser, to divide, distinguish, invent, from Vulgar Latin *divisare, frequentative of Latin dividere to divide

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Time Traveler for devise

Time Traveler

The first known use of devise was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near devise

devisat vel non



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Last Updated

11 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Devise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for devise



English Language Learners Definition of devise

: to invent or plan (something that is difficult or complicated)


de·​vise | \ di-ˈvīz How to pronounce devise (audio) \
devised; devising

Kids Definition of devise

: to think up : plan, invent We devised a plan to win.


transitive verb
de·​vise | \ di-ˈvīz How to pronounce devise (audio) \
devised; devising

Legal Definition of devise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to give (property) by will specifically : to give (real property) by will — compare alienate, bequeath, convey

Other Words from devise

devisable adjective
devisor \ ˌde-​və-​ˈzȯr; di-​ˈvī-​ˌzȯr, -​zər How to pronounce devise (audio) \ noun



Legal Definition of devise (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a gift of property made in a will specifically : a gift of real property made in a will — see also abate, ademption — compare distribution

Note: Formerly devise was used to refer only to gifts of real property, and legacy and bequest were used only to refer to gifts of personal property. These distinctions are no longer closely followed. The Uniform Probate Code uses devise to refer to any gifts made in a will.

executory devise
: a devise of an interest in land that will vest in the future upon the occurrence of a contingency and that can follow a fee simple estate

Note: Executory devises were invented as a way of getting around the rule in Shelley's case, which is now largely abolished.

general devise
: a devise that is to be distributed from the general assets of an estate and that is not of a particular thing
residuary devise
: a devise of whatever is left in an estate after all other debts and devises have been paid or distributed
specific devise
: a devise of a particular item or part of an estate that is payable only from a specified source in the estate and not from the general assets
2 : a clause in a will disposing of property and especially real property
3 : property disposed of by a will

History and Etymology for devise

Transitive verb

Anglo-French deviser to divide, share, bequeath, ultimately from Latin dividere to divide

More from Merriam-Webster on devise

Nglish: Translation of devise for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of devise for Arabic Speakers


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