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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.
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 forms
devolutionary, adjective, noun
devolutionist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for devolution
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is an old native element recast in Roman form, and well illustrates the Roman principle of local government by devolution.

  • The method of division shows a devolution of responsibility.

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

    Lux Mundi Various
  • 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
  • Sir Antony MacDonnell was the author of what is called the devolution policy.

    One Irish Summer William Eleroy Curtis
  • Only the deliberation of geological movements can be contrasted with the evolution and devolution of the constellations.

    Curiosities of the Sky Garrett Serviss
  • For devolution there must be a thought-out plan equally applicable to each several part of the United Kingdom.

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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