Definition of devolution in US English:



  • 1The transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to local or regional administration.

    • ‘The cutbacks would mark a halt to the massive expansion within the civil service and local authorities since devolution.’
    • ‘If he had, he would have known with an awful clarity that devolution of power to a local level does nothing at all to reduce coercion or gross unfairness.’
    • ‘Postponing plans for a referendum on regional devolution has condemned Cumbria councils to a period of potentially damaging uncertainty.’
    • ‘Strategic health authorities would also be disbanded and foundation hospitals would be redundant as the devolution of power down to the local level would exceed the current powers they enjoy.’
    • ‘And devolution has transformed British politics.’
    • ‘In most instances widespread corruption, relatively centralised health policy making, and poor devolution to local governments lie at the core of the problem.’
    • ‘At Westminster their more thoughtful colleagues have started a debate about choice in public services and devolution of power to head teachers, hospitals and senior police officers.’
    • ‘Through the decentralization and devolution of state power to ethnic groups it hopes to dilute ethnicity and fashion a cohesive society.’
    • ‘The devolution of power under the new regional autonomy laws has had an impact on fisheries management.’
    • ‘The process of devolution and restructuring of local government in Ireland that generated the project has been under way for some years.’
    • ‘But this month's emphatic rejection of limited devolution powers by the people of north-east England appears to have put that plan on hold.’
    • ‘Health care, regional development and the devolution of powers to the territorial governments will figure prominently in all those meetings.’
    • ‘The devolution of political power to Scotland, and to a lesser extent to Wales, has changed the political landscape.’
    • ‘Despite the protests and violence, the issue that really has everyone worried is a planned devolution of power by the central government to the regions.’
    • ‘Quebec's perennial threat of separation from Canada has only been forestalled by massive devolution of governing powers from Ottawa to Quebec City.’
    • ‘Leading the way in Scotland would have been using the powers of devolution to benefit the nation.’
    • ‘Even after devolution, local government had little autonomy.’
    • ‘Constitutional amendments have mandated devolution of powers to the third tier of government.’
    • ‘Both are now looking for a Plan B and I suspect that the next crucial battleground will be local government reform and devolution to smaller and more powerful councils.’
    • ‘The lack of an overarching threat meant devolution of power away from central authorities.’
    decentralization, delegation, dispersal, distribution, transfer, surrender, relinquishment
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1formal Descent or degeneration to a lower or worse state.
      ‘the devolution of the gentlemanly ideal into a glorification of drunkenness’
      • ‘Perhaps it's a natural devolution of the animal rights movement.’
      • ‘The trilogy traces Neo's evolution from man to god and Morpheus' devolution from god to man.’
      • ‘In our judgement the power struggle within the TFG has ended with its devolution into factionalism.’
      • ‘Michel begins with this last work, considering the artist not in terms of his evolution but, in an important sense, his devolution.’
      • ‘Keng's devolution in the second half is made incredibly evident.’
      • ‘The headline says it all: ‘State stance on evolution a devolution into stupidity’.’
      • ‘Branding is an effort at countering the devolution of a so-called proprietary good into a "commodity."’
    2. 1.2Law The legal transfer of property from one owner to another.
      • ‘Under these broad cultural practices, women became part of systems of inter-generational property devolution.’
      • ‘That exception covers devolution of property on death or other matters of personal law [as well as] the application of African customary law in any case involving Africans.’
      • ‘First, there are rules governing the devolution of property by will.’
      • ‘This produces the following devolution of title to the legal estate and the equitable interest.’
      • ‘A telling sign of heightened stress within the patrilineal family is the rise of litigation over property devolution.’
    3. 1.3Biology Evolutionary degeneration.
      • ‘Also, at best, vestigial organs could only prove devolution (loss of information), not evolution.’
      • ‘This would help insure that any propagation of the human race worked toward evolution rather than devolution.’
      • ‘Evolution of a smaller jaw would at best be a result of devolution, dysgenics caused by the accumulation of mutations.’
      • ‘One more step in the devolution of the human brain.’
      • ‘So if there is a developmental sequence for species, then anything that reverses that sequence is devolution and degeneration.’


Late 15th century (in the sense ‘transference by default’): from late Latin devolutio(n-), from Latin devolvere ‘roll down’ (see devolve).