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’
    • ‘This results in a personality which is cunning and devious, and refuses to grow up and take responsibility for itself.’
    • ‘Thomas Jefferson was a tough, devious politician who viewed the states as supreme.’
    • ‘They are duplicitous and devious, always posing, not wishing or able to be authentic.’
    • ‘The Nazis saw the Jews and Poles as feminine races, achieving their goals through devious plots rather than masculine openness.’
    • ‘The police continue to be secretive, devious and opaque - precisely when they ought to be transparent.’
    • ‘They are little better than the smarmy, devious, dishonest and selfish Europeans.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It just means that it's necessary to divorce what was said from the devious and somewhat desperate politician who was saying it.’
    • ‘They had somehow managed to re-elect the most devious, blinkered and reckless leader ever put before them.’
    • ‘Women feature as sexually voracious, devious, and immoral, destroying men or diverting them from their pursuit of honour.’
    • ‘That is the sort of devious, dodgy tactic this Government gets up to.’
    • ‘Never before has a devious little plan backfired so badly.’
    • ‘It would also, in a case like the present one, be to reward conduct which at best was devious and at worst deceitful.’
    • ‘Cunning and devious, his story is not only poignant; it also makes for great entertainment!’
    • ‘They can be cunning and devious, but overall goblins are not very intelligent creatures.’
    • ‘Sometimes it is necessary to adopt devious tactics to expose bullies and cheats.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘For bridge, all you need is a playing partner, a pair of opponents, a set of cards - and a capacity for wicked, devious cunning.’
    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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘What is difficult about maneuver is to make the devious route the most direct and to turn misfortune to advantage.’
    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’.