• synonyms


[dev-uh-loo-shuh n or, esp. British, dee-vuh-]
See more synonyms for devolution on Thesaurus.com
  1. the act or fact of devolving; passage onward from stage to stage.
  2. the passing on to a successor of an unexercised right.
  3. Law. the passing of property from one to another, as by hereditary succession.
  4. Biology. degeneration.
  5. the transfer of power or authority from a central government to a local government.
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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 formsdev·o·lu·tion·ar·y, adjective, noundev·o·lu·tion·ist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for devolution

deterioration, relapse, drop, slump, recession, failure, fall, downturn, breakdown, undoing, collapse, debacle, overthrow, destruction, decline, descent, decadence, retrogression, degeneration, declension

Examples from the Web for devolution

Contemporary Examples of devolution

Historical Examples of devolution

  • There is no possibility of devolution here; it cannot delegate its functions to this faculty or to that.

    Lux Mundi


  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for devolution


  1. the act, fact, or result of devolving
  2. a passing onwards or downwards from one stage to another
  3. another word for degeneration (def. 3)
  4. a transfer or allocation of authority, esp from a central government to regional governments or particular interests
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Derived Formsdevolutionary, adjectivedevolutionist, noun, adjective

Word Origin for devolution

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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper