• 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

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


  • 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

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