[dev-uh-loo-shuh n or, esp. British, dee-vuh-]
  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.

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for devolutionary

Historical Examples of devolutionary

British Dictionary definitions for devolutionary


  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
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 devolutionary



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