Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
September 10th, 2016
Episode 643 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 10, 2016 is: devolve \dih-VAHLV\ verb 1 a : to pass by transmission or succession b : to fall or be passed usually as a responsibility or obligation 2 : to come by or as if by flowing down 3 : to degenerate through a gradual change or evolution Examples: Over time, the weekly book club meeting devolved into mean-spirited gossip sessions. "… with whiplash speed, this heart-warming tale has devolved into an internet-fueled soap opera." — Craig Schneider, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 31 July 2016 Did you know? Devolve evolved from Latin volvere, a word that means "to roll." The prefix de- means "down." (Other words that revolve around volvere are the five other words containing -vol- found in this paragraph.) Knowing which preposition to use with devolve can seem a bit involved, but it's really not all that convoluted. Responsibility or rights devolve "on," "upon," or "to" someone. When something comes into a present state by flowing down from a source, either literally or figuratively, we say "devolve from," as in "customs that devolve from old beliefs." And when the devolving is a downward evolution to a lower state we say "devolves into" (or sometimes "devolves to"), as in "order devolves into chaos."