1. An object designed and manufactured to perform one or more functions.
2. A literary contrivance, such as parallelism or personification, used to achieve a particular effect.
a. A decorative design, figure, or pattern, as one used in embroidery. See Synonyms at figure.
b. A graphic symbol or motto, especially in heraldry.
4. A plan or scheme for accomplishing something: “Now Lydgate might have called at the warehouse, or might have written a message on a leaf of his pocket-book and left it at the door. Yet these simple devices apparently did not occur to him” (George Eliot).
leave to (one's) own devices
1. To allow (a person) to do as that person pleases: left the child to her own devices for an hour.
2. To force (a person) to cope or manage without assistance: Most people would die in the desert if left to their own devices.
[Middle English, from Old French devis, division, wish, and Old French devise, design, both from Latin dīvīsus, dīvīsa, past participle of dīvidere, to divide, separate; see DIVIDE.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.