1. the act or fact of devolving; passage onward from stage to stage.
  2. the passing on to a successor of an unexercised right.
  3. Law. the passing of property from one to another, as by hereditary succession.
  4. Biology. degeneration.
  5. the transfer of power or authority from a central government to a local government.


  1. the act, fact, or result of devolving
  2. a passing onwards or downwards from one stage to another
  3. another word for degeneration (def. 3)
  4. a transfer or allocation of authority, esp from a central government to regional governments or particular interests

1540s; see de- + evolution. Used in various legal and figurative senses; in biology, as the opposite of evolution, it is attested from 1882.

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