“The King of the Apes decreed that from this day forth certain powers of governance shall be devolved upon the regional governors of his kingdom.”

What is the best definition of devolve?

Check your answer!

Choice A - To explain or elucidate advanced concepts
Choice B - To bring back into memory or recollection
Choice C - To make a matter convoluted or confusing
Choice D - To delegate or pass power to another entity


Devolve (verb) – to pass on or delegate certain rights, powers, responsibilities, or obligations (often to a lower or less centralized entity); or, to degenerate into a lower state or break into smaller entities

Devolution (noun) – the delegation of powers by a centralized authority to decentralized governing bodies; or, a degeneration into a lower or worse state

GRE pro tips:

The first thing you may think of when you hear the word devolve is a degeneration into a lower state, the opposite of evolve. For example, order may devolve into chaos, or a structured conversation may devolve into name-calling. However, devolve has another important meaning involving its roots, de (“down”) and vol (“roll”): it can refer to something being rolled down, or passed down, often to lower or less centralized entities. For example, parents may devolve certain responsibilities to their children, a seller may devolve his property to the highest bidder, or the throne may be devolved to the crown prince.

To better remember the two meanings of devolution, you can picture two things: (1) apes de-evolving into lower creatures, or (2) the King of the Apes devolving his ruling power to lower apes.

Example sentences:

“States-rights activists often hold the opinion that the Federal Government has overreached its constitutional limitations and would like to see a devolution of governing authority to state governments.”

“Once the tides of the battle had turned, the orderly march of the battalion devolved into bedlam, as the soldiers scrambled over one another in retreat.”

“The vast royal estate and powers of the duke devolved to his nephew, for the duke had no children of his own.”