Definition of devolve in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɪˈvɒlv/


1 [with object] Transfer or delegate (power) to a lower level, especially from central government to local or regional administration: measures to devolve power to a Scottish assembly (as adjective devolved) devolved and decentralized government
More example sentences
  • The State Government devolving its powers on local self-governments is not to be criticised.
  • Let's imagine a situation where regional assemblies over England decide to pursue the same line as London, and the national agencies are broken up so as to devolve power to local decision-makers.
  • He said: ‘If you are going to devolve power to local communities, giving them a list of who should be involved is counter-productive.’
delegate, pass (down/on), hand down/over/on, depute, transfer, transmit, commit, assign, consign, convey, entrust, turn over, make over, sign over, give, part with, let go of, leave, cede, surrender, relinquish, deliver;
bestow, grant;
offload, dump, get rid of, palm off, foist, fob off
1.1 [no object] (devolve on/upon/to) (Of duties or responsibility) pass to (a body or person at a lower level): his duties devolved on a comrade
More example sentences
  • A committee or coalition cannot instigate true love; the responsibility for this devolves to substantial human exemplars.
  • The governor's call for a non-binding referendum means this responsibility will ultimately devolve upon us.
  • I'm not saying that sexual responsibility devolves to women.
1.2 [no object] (devolve on/upon/to) Law (Of property) be transferred from one owner to (another), especially by inheritance: the estate had devolved to the heir
More example sentences
  • By the Section 38 Order, this property would devolve to Highland.
  • The trustee may by notice in writing claim for the bankrupt's estate any property which has been acquired by, or has devolved upon, the bankrupt since the commencement of the bankruptcy.
  • The term is defined in LPA 1925, s. 205, as any real property which on an intestacy occurring before the commencement of this Act might have devolved upon an heir.
2 [no object] (devolve into) formal Pass into (a different state, especially a worse one); degenerate: the Empire devolved into separate warring states
More example sentences
  • Worse, fullbacks have devolved into one-dimensional blockers who may only see action on one-fifth of a team's snaps - and they're lucky to touch the ball at all.
  • If the detectives are of differing abilities it devolves into a situation where one player is deciding the best move for everybody else.
  • Unfortunately, that intensity's exactly what's lacking in Yellowknife, a stylish road movie whose early promise devolves into a hash of bad sex and worse plotting.



Example sentences
  • Since July 2000 we've seen the devolvement of health trusts and their staff into primary care trusts.
  • Let's grasp it and show the country that, with an elected mayor and a devolvement of power and authority to local level, Bolton can lead the way.
  • Firstly, whether that level of devolvement can be maintained for the future, looking at the great drain that it is on resources.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'roll down'): from Latin devolvere, from de- 'down' + volvere 'to roll'.

  • revolve from Late Middle English:

    The Latin verb volvere had the sense ‘to turn round, roll, tumble’; add re- in front and you get meaning such as ‘turn back, turn round’. This is the basic idea behind revolve and its offshoots: revolution (Late Middle English) which only came to mean the overthrow of a government in 1600, and which developed the form rev for the turning over of a motor in the early 20th century; and revolt (mid 16th century) initially used politically, and developing the sense ‘to make someone turn away in disgust’ in the mid 18th century. The sense ‘roll, tumble’ of volvere developed into vault, both for the sense ‘leap’ (mid 16th century) which came via Old French volter ‘to turn (a horse), gambol’, and for the arch that springs up to form a roof (Middle English). The turning sense is found in voluble (Middle English) initially used to mean ‘turning’, but was used for words rolling out of the mouth by the late 16th century, and in volume (Late Middle English) originally a rolled scroll rather than a book, but with the sense ‘quantity’ coming from an obsolete meaning ‘size or extent (of a book)’ by the early 16th century. Convoluted (late 18th century) comes from convolvere ‘rolled together, intertwined’ (the plant convolvulus, from the same root, that climbs by turning its stem around a support already existed as a word in Latin, where it could also mean a caterpillar that rolls itself up in a leaf); while devolve (Late Middle English) comes from its opposite devolvere ‘to unroll, roll down’; and involve (Late Middle English) from involvere ‘to roll in’.

Words that rhyme with devolve

absolve, evolve, exsolve, involve, revolve, solve

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: de|volve

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