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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.
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. 2014.
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Examples from the web for devolution
  • The juxtaposition of the rosy rhetoric about devolution and the dour reality of funding makes clear the fundamental dilemma.
  • And devolution law says that actions by ministers, and those who work under them, must conform to human-rights law.
  • The same thing can be said about devolution or regression.
  • The first is that political devolution risks being tokenistic without financial devolution giving councils more power over taxes.
  • There are practical explanations for why both party establishments have undergone some version of this same devolution.
  • They discount the president's vague promises of a serious devolution of power.
  • It also means softening the party's rabid opposition to further regional devolution.
  • Many therefore doubt that devolution will occur in practice.
  • Instead it seems that there's been a steadily accelerating devolution.
  • devolution, not famine, is the really frightening permanent consequence of human overpopulation.
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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