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[dev-uh-loo-shuh n or, esp. British, dee-vuh-] /ˌdɛv əˈlu ʃən or, esp. British, ˈdi və-/
the act or fact of devolving; passage onward from stage to stage.
the passing on to a successor of an unexercised right.
Law. the passing of property from one to another, as by hereditary succession.
Biology. degeneration.
the transfer of power or authority from a central government to a local government.
Origin of devolution
1535-45; (< Middle French) < Medieval Latin dēvolūtiōn- (stem of dēvolūtiō) a rolling down, equivalent to Latin dēvolūt(us) rolled down (past participle of dēvolvere; see devolve) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
devolutionary, adjective, noun
devolutionist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for devolution
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There is no possibility of devolution here; it cannot delegate its functions to this faculty or to that.

    Lux Mundi Various
  • The method of division shows a devolution of responsibility.

  • It stands for evolution rather than for devolution or revolution.

    The Joyful Heart Robert Haven Schauffler
  • Plans of devolution and Grand Committees will fail to cope with this evil.

    Handbook of Home Rule (1887) W. E. Gladstone et al.
  • devolution is quite as natural as evolution, and may be just as pleasing, or even a good deal more pleasing, to God.

    In Defense of Women H. L. Mencken
  • Only the deliberation of geological movements can be contrasted with the evolution and devolution of the constellations.

    Curiosities of the Sky Garrett Serviss
  • devolution, dev-ol-ū′shun, n. a passing from one person to another.

  • It had long been felt that some devolution was necessary, and the change was justified by the result.

    The Great Boer War Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Nevertheless, the problem before us is one of devolution pure and simple, and the question is, how far is devolution to go?

    The Framework of Home Rule Erskine Childers
British Dictionary definitions for devolution


the act, fact, or result of devolving
a passing onwards or downwards from one stage to another
another word for degeneration (sense 3)
a transfer or allocation of authority, esp from a central government to regional governments or particular interests
Derived Forms
devolutionary, adjective
devolutionist, noun, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin dēvolūtiō a rolling down, from Latin dēvolvere to roll down, sink into; see devolve
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for devolution

1540s; see de- + evolution. Used in various legal and figurative senses; in biology, as the opposite of evolution, it is attested from 1882.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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