Definition of device in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəˈvīs/


1A thing made or adapted for a particular purpose, especially a piece of mechanical or electronic equipment: a measuring device
More example sentences
  • The aim of nanotechnology is to manipulate molecules atom by atom, treating them like mechanical devices with gears, wheels, levers, hooks, pivots, locks and keys.
  • Such articles include electronic devices, dust handling equipment and notebook computer enclosures.
  • Radioactivity cannot be felt, smelled, seen, or heard directly and is detectable only with the aid of mechanical or electronic devices.
implement, gadget, utensil, tool, appliance, apparatus, instrument, machine, mechanism, contrivance, contraption
informal gizmo, widget, doohickey
1.1A bomb or other explosive weapon: an incendiary device
More example sentences
  • Bucher considered stocking the ship with Thermite, an incendiary device that is very difficult to extinguish.
  • Their priority is an end to air strikes, tank attacks, artillery barrages, sniping, car bombs and roadside explosive devices.
  • The 1949 Soviet explosion of a nuclear device reinforced the image of an external threat.
1.2 archaic The design or look of something: works of strange device
More example sentences
  • Her cave was stored with scrolls of strange device.
  • On its surface is a raised cross of beautiful device, by the side of whose shaft is a knight's sword.
2A plan, scheme, or trick with a particular aim: writing a public letter is a traditional device for signaling dissent
More example sentences
  • In the absence of other methods and devices, an Australian Bill of Rights may have been useful.
  • Anarchists don't salute anyone and they wouldn't think to use it as a mnemonic device, but their method is the same.
  • Doris and Nana appear out of nowhere and act as little more than clumsy devices to move the plot along and reveal the truth behind mysteries set up elsewhere.
ploy, tactic, move, stratagem, scheme, plot, plan, trick, ruse, maneuver, machination, contrivance, expedient, dodge, wile
2.1A turn of phrase intended to produce a particular effect in speech or a literary work: a rhetorical device
More example sentences
  • Obviously, this a rhetorical device: a trope or some sort of shorthand for the linking of theory to practice.
  • These ten poems are not joined together by a narrative structure, or recurring rhetorical devices intended to produce a unified group of poems.
  • In a work of literature Stewart's lies would constitute synecdoche, the rhetorical device in which a part stands for the whole.
3A drawing or design: the decorative device on the invitations
More example sentences
  • He had a taste for popular decorative devices, such as fruit, flowers, and brocades, which resulted in a curious and engaging blend of naivety and sophistication.
  • The superior canines of the adult bear were extracted, probably for use as decorative devices.
3.1An emblematic or heraldic design: their shields bear the device of the Blazing Sun
More example sentences
  • If a hallmark on a spoon is so worn you can't make it out, which side bears the heraldic device could give a clue to its date.
  • He chose the Corbinian Bear as an heraldic device for his papal coat of arms.
  • In elite society, aristocratic funerary sculpture quickly replaced religious imagery with heraldic and symbolic devices.
emblem, symbol, logo, badge, crest, insignia, coat of arms, escutcheon, seal, mark, design, motif;
monogram, hallmark, trademark


leave someone to their own devices

Leave someone to do as they wish without supervision.
Example sentences
  • Bemused families said they were left to their own devices while Army personnel began controlled explosions.
  • Members of the community say they have been left to their own devices by law enforcement officials for many years, and are struggling between an instinctive resentment of police and a burgeoning sense of the size of the problem.
  • Nature magically stimulates children's imaginations; their level of inventiveness and ingenuity seems to explode when they are left to their own devices.


Middle English: from Old French devis, based on Latin divis- 'divided', from the verb dividere. The original sense was 'desire or intention', found now only in leave a person to his or her own devices (which has become associated with sense 2).

  • The original sense of device was ‘desire, intention’, which is found now only in to leave a person to their own devices. It does occur in the title of the novel Devices and Desires by the crime writer P. D. James, taken from the Book of Common Prayer: ‘We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.’ The source of device is a French form based on Latin dividere ‘to divide’. Its sense developed from ‘desire, intention’ to ‘a plan, scheme, trick’ and then the usual modern meaning of ‘a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: de·vice

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