1540s, in reference to property, qualities, etc., "descent by natural or due succession," agent noun from devolve. Meaning "act of transferring or handing over" is from 1620s. Etymological sense "act of rolling down" (1620s) was rare in English and is archaic or obsolete. In biology, as "degeneration, the opposite of evolution," it is attested by 1882.
updated on August 07, 2018