verb (used with object), de·volved, de·volv·ing.

to transfer or delegate (a duty, responsibility, etc.) to or upon another; pass on.
Obsolete. to cause to roll downward.

verb (used without object), de·volved, de·volv·ing.

to be transferred or passed on from one to another: The responsibility devolved on me.
Archaic. to roll or flow downward.

Origin of devolve

1375–1425; late Middle English devolven < Latin dēvolvere to roll down, equivalent to dē- de- + volvere to roll
Related formsde·volve·ment, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for devolve

delegate, pass, worsen, decline, fade, degenerate, fall

Examples from the Web for devolve

Contemporary Examples of devolve

Historical Examples of devolve

  • Leisure for the grand duties which devolve on the lords of mankind.



  • Please bear in mind that it does not devolve upon you to decide that question.

    Peggy Stewart at School

    Gabrielle E. Jackson

  • Thou art his only son, and on thee his duties will now devolve.

  • Charlotte begged that on herself might devolve the care of furnishing it.

    Rich Enough

    Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee

  • Your lands, your principalities, to devolve on the child of an humble Englishman!

    My Novel, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

British Dictionary definitions for devolve



(foll by on, upon, to, etc) to pass or cause to pass to a successor or substitute, as duties, power, etc
(intr; foll by on or upon) law (of an estate, etc) to pass to another by operation of law, esp on intestacy or bankruptcy
(intr; foll by on or upon) to depend (on)your argument devolves on how you interpret this clause
archaic to roll down or cause to roll down
Derived Formsdevolvement, noun

Word Origin for devolve

C15: from Latin dēvolvere to roll down, fall into, from de- + volvere to roll
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 devolve

early 15c., "to roll down," from Latin devolvere "to roll down," from de- (see de-) + volvere "to roll" (see volvox). Figurative sense of "to cause to pass down" is from 1520s. Related: Devolved; devolving. Also in same sense was devolute (1530s), from Latin devolutus, past participle of devolvere.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper