Definition of devious in English:



  • 1Showing a skilful use of underhand tactics to achieve goals.

    ‘he's as devious as a politician needs to be’
    ‘they have devious ways of making money’
    • ‘The Nazis saw the Jews and Poles as feminine races, achieving their goals through devious plots rather than masculine openness.’
    • ‘It would also, in a case like the present one, be to reward conduct which at best was devious and at worst deceitful.’
    • ‘They had somehow managed to re-elect the most devious, blinkered and reckless leader ever put before them.’
    • ‘This results in a personality which is cunning and devious, and refuses to grow up and take responsibility for itself.’
    • ‘Women feature as sexually voracious, devious, and immoral, destroying men or diverting them from their pursuit of honour.’
    • ‘Never before has a devious little plan backfired so badly.’
    • ‘It always seems to me a kind of spiteful and devious and underhanded sort of job.’
    • ‘It can only be the devious and underhand tactic of incorporating it in 90% of the world's web browsers.’
    • ‘Instead of her being devious, duplicitous, and incompetent, perhaps she could answer the question.’
    • ‘These rules may seem stringent but lightning is a tricky, devious phenomenon.’
    • ‘They can be cunning and devious, but overall goblins are not very intelligent creatures.’
    • ‘The police continue to be secretive, devious and opaque - precisely when they ought to be transparent.’
    • ‘They are duplicitous and devious, always posing, not wishing or able to be authentic.’
    • ‘Thomas Jefferson was a tough, devious politician who viewed the states as supreme.’
    • ‘That is the sort of devious, dodgy tactic this Government gets up to.’
    • ‘It just means that it's necessary to divorce what was said from the devious and somewhat desperate politician who was saying it.’
    • ‘They are little better than the smarmy, devious, dishonest and selfish Europeans.’
    • ‘Cunning and devious, his story is not only poignant; it also makes for great entertainment!’
    • ‘For bridge, all you need is a playing partner, a pair of opponents, a set of cards - and a capacity for wicked, devious cunning.’
    • ‘Sometimes it is necessary to adopt devious tactics to expose bullies and cheats.’
    underhand, underhanded, deceitful, dishonest, dishonourable, disreputable, unethical, unprincipled, immoral, unscrupulous, fraudulent, cheating, dubious, dirty, unfair, treacherous, duplicitous, double-dealing, janus-faced, below the belt, two-timing, two-faced, unsporting, unsportsmanlike
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  • 2(of a route or journey) longer and less direct than the most straightforward way.

    ‘they arrived at the town by a devious route’
    • ‘What is difficult about maneuver is to make the devious route the most direct and to turn misfortune to advantage.’
    • ‘The Scire made her way by a devious route to Port Lago on the Italian-occupied island of Leros in the Aegean to rendezvous with the frogmen crews.’
    circuitous, roundabout, indirect, meandering, winding, serpentine, tortuous, rambling
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Late 16th century: from Latin devius (from de- away from + via way) + -ous. The original sense was ‘remote’; the later sense ‘departing from the direct route’ gave rise to the figurative sense ‘deviating from the straight way’ and hence ‘skilled in underhand tactics’.