• (British) IPA: /dɪˈvɒɫv/

devolve (devolves, present participle devolving; past and past participle devolved)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To roll (something) down; to unroll. [15th-19th c.]
    • 1744, Mark Akenside, The Pleasures of the Imagination, II:
      every headlong stream / Devolves its winding waters to the main.
    • 1830, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Character:
      He spake of virtue […] And with […] a lack-lustre dead-blue eye, Devolved his rounded periods.
  2. (intransitive) To be inherited by someone else; to pass down upon the next person in a succession, especially through failure or loss of an earlier holder. [from 16th c.]
    • 1932, Duff Cooper, Talleyrand, Folio Society 2010, p. 4:
      an accident […] rendered him permanently lame, and therefore unfitted him, in the opinion of his parents, to inherit his father's many titles, which, it was then arranged, should devolve upon his younger brother.
  3. (transitive) To delegate (a responsibility, duty, etc.) on or upon someone. [from 17th c.]
    • 1704, Joseph Addison, Remarks on Several Parts of Italy:
      They devolved their whole authority into the hands of the council of sixty.
    • 1756, Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful:
      An artful man became popular, the people had power in their hands, and they devolved a considerable share of their power upon their favourite […].
  4. (intransitive) To fall as a duty or responsibility on or upon someone. [from 18th c.]
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, Ulysses, Paris: Shakespeare & Co.; Sylvia Beach, OCLC 560090630 ↗; republished London: Published for the Egoist Press, London by John Rodker, Paris, October 1922, OCLC 2297483 ↗:
      , Episode 16:
      For the nonce he was rather nonplussed but inasmuch as the duty plainly devolved upon him to take some measures on the subject he pondered suitable ways and means during which Stephen repeatedly yawned.
  5. (intransitive) To degenerate; to break down. [from 18th c.]
    A discussion about politics may devolve into a shouting match.
Related terms Translations
  • Russian: переходи́ть
  • Russian: передава́ть
  • Spanish: delegar

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