Definition of devolve in English:



  • 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’
    ‘devolved and decentralized government’
    • ‘We expected more from this Government, which came to power promising to devolve power to the regions.’
    • ‘The way they have devolved power to Scotland and Wales is an absolute disgrace.’
    • ‘Unless we devolve powers to county level and abolish the quangos, we will fail to energise local government to the challenges of the 21st century.’
    • ‘He said: ‘If you are going to devolve power to local communities, giving them a list of who should be involved is counter-productive.’’
    • ‘What is clear is that Jakarta has devolved many powers to the municipalities.’
    • ‘The government claims regional assemblies would devolve power and decision-making.’
    • ‘Behind the woolly talk of local powers and responsibilities is a failure to devolve real powers or funds to improve transport in the regions.’
    • ‘The yes campaigners believe this is a unique opportunity to devolve power from Westminster to the region.’
    • ‘Indonesia chose a rather drastic form of decentralization; from a highly centralized government to a system devolving political power to over 400 districts.’
    • ‘Turnout is also very low in elections for local councils, devolved institutions and the European Parliament.’
    • ‘Yet another law was passed, in first reading, to devolve some powers of the central government to regional councils.’
    • ‘Central governments do not, generally, wish to devolve effective power in any way - that is the root of this whole problem, and the reason why the government may be following its current course of action.’
    • ‘This means cutting the number of health authorities by two thirds and devolving some power to the regional authorities.’
    • ‘They have legislated to expand trial by jury, devolve powers to local councils and ban the police from entering universities.’
    • ‘The current settlement devolves substantial power and funding to the Scottish parliament and compares well with most other sub-national jurisdictions of the world.’
    • ‘We will continue to devolve power to our regions and localities wherever we can.’
    • ‘The Cabinet cited a need to address ‘practical problems’ that reform might present and to devolve certain powers in such a way as to optimize local autonomy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The State Government devolving its powers on local self-governments is not to be criticised.’
    • ‘The fundamental issue is that if you devolve power and money down to the local level you get programmes going in different directions, ineffectiveness, and on occasion corruption.’
    delegate, pass, pass down, pass on, hand down, hand on, hand over, 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
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[no object](of duties or responsibility) pass to (a body or person at a lower level)
      ‘his duties devolved on a comrade’
      • ‘From here on out, responsibility for my apprenticeship as a feeder devolved to me alone.’
      • ‘While credit for the good is claimed by both, accountability for the ills like rampant tree cutting does not devolve on either.’
      • ‘But at the end of the day, responsibility devolves upon the commander at sea, and Jellicoe had missed the fleeting opportunity to deliver a decisive victory in Trafalgar-fashion.’
      • ‘A committee or coalition cannot instigate true love; the responsibility for this devolves to substantial human exemplars.’
      • ‘Although she is still Riverdance's producer, much of the day-to-day responsibilities for managing the shows have been devolved to a management team.’
      • ‘As in the other two we find in No.3 that amount of Conscientiousness which will give a desire to fulfil the duties devolving upon her in a trustworthy manner.’
      • ‘It was agreed at the meeting that control of access to the records was your function as Secretary to the Inquiry, but that ultimately the responsibility would devolve on the Treasury.’
      • ‘The responsibility devolving on man is known, in the phraseology of Islam, as takleef-i-shar'ee or religious obligation, which is laid on every man according to his competence depending on his strength.’
      • ‘The governor's call for a non-binding referendum means this responsibility will ultimately devolve upon us.’
      • ‘If it doesn't, the obligation devolves upon the member associations and therefore the member associations are free to do so if they have a reasonable prospect of doing so effectively.’
      • ‘Perhaps more to the point, however, Heidegger's secularized meditation on the imminence of death and the responsibilities that devolve to us as a result owe more to the heroic literature of Ernest Juenger.’
      • ‘I'm not saying that sexual responsibility devolves to women.’
      • ‘With the men away from the court for long periods in the army or on official postings, responsibility devolved upon aristocratic women, many of whom personally directed the factions themselves.’
      • ‘The awesome task of creating a modern, democratic Afghan state - and in the process turning 3,000 years of historical development on its head - devolves on him.’
      • ‘One reason why it was not found is one considers the comment that we had breached our duty or our duty had devolved upon us so as to call for us to act some time long before November 1996.’
      • ‘But since all are created equally in the image of God, there is a duty that devolves upon the ‘haves’ to give of their substance to the ‘have-nots’ in order to effect justice.’
      • ‘Egger were the contract administrators and that duty devolved on Mr Dent.’
      • ‘Or should responsibility only devolve on two or three of them who bought the last rounds?’
      • ‘Why is it always that responsibilities like this devolve on me?’
      • ‘They stressed education so that people would better understand the faith, and the responsibility for education devolved on the home, the church, and the state.’
    2. 1.2Law [no object](of property) be transferred from one owner to (another), especially by inheritance.
      ‘the estate had devolved to the heir’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In 1986, the government of India passed a bill which increased the punishment for accepting dowry and decreed that in cases where a woman died an unnatural death, her property would devolve on her children or be returned to her parents.’
      • ‘By the Section 38 Order, this property would devolve to Highland.’
  • 2formal [no object] Pass into (a different state, especially a worse one); degenerate.

    ‘the Empire devolved into separate warring states’
    • ‘The first half is pretty cool, as we meet the central character and see his peculiar behaviour, however in the second half it pretty much devolves into a boring conventional thriller with nothing especially interesting to say.’
    • ‘Her piece then devolves into a long remembrance of her history, that of a working class girl who became disillusioned with her chosen party because it ceased to care.’
    • ‘If the detectives are of differing abilities it devolves into a situation where one player is deciding the best move for everybody else.’
    • ‘Williams chokes off every bit of his classic manic energy, which ends up channeling much meaning into every little bit of body language - while never devolving into obvious mannerisms.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The promise of the first hour devolves into a muddle supporting every possible theory of who wrote Shakespeare while side plots involving Anne Hathaway and Queen Elizabeth lead nowhere.’
    • ‘The result is that thinking becomes so mechanical that it is best done by managers and machines; reason devolves into a technology of control wielded by the wealthy and powerful.’
    • ‘What started off as a nice satire of Big Science and weapons research devolves into an unpleasant story of corruption involving a large cast of unpleasant characters.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To prevent Burnt Sugar's music from devolving into self-indulgent jam band territory, early in the group's development Tate began using conduction, a system of baton gestures devised by Butch Morris.’
    • ‘Bruce stews with indignity (and Nelson has one unforgettable meltdown), but at times in Act 2 the endeavor seemed in danger of devolving into a shouting contest.’
    • ‘The reason many critics see the world devolving into vulgar chaos is that they see a world filled with artifacts, nearly all of them disposable, that have no meaning to them.’
    • ‘And everything is devolving into a kind of chaos.’
    • ‘This rant then devolves into a general pasting of popular music and is not especially coherent, but then, what do you want out of a one-eared, stuffed deer.’
    • ‘One detailed concerns that the country is devolving into a ‘narco state’ with about 60 per cent of its income derived from opium.’
    • ‘In the meantime, the mainstream press is devolving into a combination of conventional entertainment and political theater, all of it remote from the reality that most Americans know.’
    • ‘What starts off as an interesting premise quickly devolves into a melodrama that cannot be sustained by a cast of actors who look like they would rather be somewhere else.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, the glimpses we have of the Berlin above show a landscape out of The Triumph of Death, a city devolving into total anomie.’
    • ‘The reauthorization debate is the domestic policy opportunity of the near future, but it will be a lost opportunity if it devolves into an argument over whether this or that element of the 1996 changes succeeded.’
    • ‘Shielding programs from Congressional oversight allows for small programs to devolve into gigantic, often bizarre, schemes that would never pass muster with Congress.’


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