Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. See Synonyms at development.
  • n. The process of developing.
  • n. Gradual development.
  • n. Biology Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species.
  • n. Biology The historical development of a related group of organisms; phylogeny.
  • n. A movement that is part of a set of ordered movements.
  • n. Mathematics The extraction of a root of a quantity.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. gradual directional change especially one leading to a more advanced or complex form; growth; development
  • n. The change in the genetic composition of a population over successive generations.
  • n. The extraction of a root from a quantity.
  • n. One of a series of ordered movements.
  • n. A turning movement of the body.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act of unfolding or unrolling; hence, any process of growth or development.
  • n. A series of things unrolled or unfolded.
  • n. The formation of an involute by unwrapping a thread from a curve as an evolute.
  • n. The extraction of roots; -- the reverse of involution.
  • n. A prescribed movement of a body of troops, or a vessel or fleet; any movement designed to effect a new arrangement or disposition; a maneuver.
  • n. A general name for the history of the steps by which any living organism has acquired the morphological and physiological characters which distinguish it; a gradual unfolding of successive phases of growth or development.
  • n. That theory of generation which supposes the germ to preëxist in the parent, and its parts to be developed, but not actually formed, by the procreative act; -- opposed to epigenesis.
  • n. That series of changes under natural law which involves continuous progress from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous in structure, and from the single and simple to the diverse and manifold in quality or function. The process is by some limited to organic beings; by others it is applied to the inorganic and the psychical. It is also applied to explain the existence and growth of institutions, manners, language, civilization, and every product of human activity. The agencies and laws of the process are variously explained by different philosophrs.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The act or process of unfolding, or the state of being unfolded; an opening out or unrolling.
  • n. Hence The process of evolving or becoming developed; an unfolding or growth from, or as if from, a germ or latent state, or from a plan; development: as, the evolution of history or of a dramatic plot.
  • n. Specifically— In biology: The actual formation of a part or of the whole of an organism which previously existed only as a germ or rudiment; ordinary natural growth, as of living creatures, from the germinal or embryonic to the adult or perfect state: as, the evolution of an animal from the ovum, or of a plant from the seed; the evolution of the blossom from the bud, or of the fruit from the flower; the evolution of the butterfly from the caterpillar; the evolution of the brain from primitive cerebral vesicles, or of the lungs from an offshoot of the intestine.
  • n. The release, emergence, or exclusion of an animal or a plant, or of some stage or part thereof, from any covering which contained it: as, the evolution of spores from an encysted animalcule; the evolution of a moth from the cocoon, of an insect from the wood or mud in which it lived as a larva, of a chick from the egg-shell which contained it as an embryo.
  • n. Descent or derivation, as of offspring from parents; the actual result of generation or procreation. As a fact, this evolution is not open to question. As a doctrine or theory of generation, it is susceptible of different interpretations. In one view, the germ actually preëxists in one or the other parent, and is simply unfolded or expanded, but not actually formed, in the act of procreation. (See ovulist, spermatist.) This view is now generally abandoned, the current opinion being that each parent furnishes materials for or the substance of the germ, whose evolution results from the union of such elements. See epigenesis.
  • n. The fact or the doctrine of the derivation or descent, with modification, of all existing species, genera, orders, classes, etc., of animals and plants, from a few simple forms of life, if not from one; the doctrine of derivation; evolutionism. (See Darwinism.) In this sense, evolution is opposed to creationism, or the view that all living things have been created at some time substantially as they now exist. Modern evolutionary theories, however, are less concerned with the problem of the origination of life than with questions of the ways and means by which living organisms have assumed their actual characters or forms. Phylogenetic evolution insists upon the direct derivation of all forms of life from other antecedent forms, in no other way than as, in ontogeny, offspring are derived from parents, and consequently grades all actual affinities according to propinquity or remoteness of genetic succession. It presumes that, as a rule, such derivation or descent, with modification, is from the more simple to the more complex forms, from low to high in organization, and from the more generalized to the more specialized in structure and function; but it also recognizes retrograde development, degeneration or degradation. The doctrine is now accepted by most biologists as a conception which most nearly coincides with the ascertained facts in the case, and which best explains observed facts, though it is held with many shades of individual opinion in this or that particular. See natural selection, under selection.
  • n. In general, the passage from unorganized simplicity to organized complexity (that is, to a nicer and more elaborate arrangement for reaching definite ends), this process being regarded as of the nature of a growth. Thus, the development of planetary bodies from nebular or gaseous matter, and the history of the development of an individual plant or animal, or of society, are examples of evolution.
  • n. Continuous succession; serial development.
  • n. In mathematics: In geometry, the unfolding or opening of a curve, and making it describe an evolvent.
  • n. The extraction of roots from powers: the reverse of involution (which see).
  • n. A turning or shifting movement; a passing back and forth; change and interchange of position, especially for the working out of a purpose or a plan; specifically, the movement of troops or ships of war in wheeling, countermarching, manœuvering, etc., for disposition in order of battle or in line on parade: generally in the plural, to express the whole series of movements.
  • n. That which is evolved; a product; an outgrowth.
  • n. In ancestral development or phylogeny, the doctrine or opinion that the specific constitution or architecture which a germ-cell is held to possess at the beginning of its development, and to which the organization of the being that is generated from it is attributed, preexisted in the germ-cells of preceding generations. In the extreme form in which it was held by the embryologists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it is the doctrine that since individual development is and always has been the unfolding of preexisting structure, each successive organism has existed, as such, from the beginning, in the germ-cells of its first ancestor, and in those of all successive ancestors, so that it is not the actual modem organism, but only its visibility or perceptibility by sense that is new. The modifications of this doctrine by more modern embryologists, who have sought to make it consistent with the progress of biological science, are too subtile and refined for concise statement.
  • n. In biology, the doctrine or opinion, accepted as an established truth by all recent biologists, that all living beings have come into existence, in course of nature, by uninterrupted descent, without break of continuity, from a few ancient and simple forms of life, or from one.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage (especially a more advanced or mature stage)
  • n. (biology) the sequence of events involved in the evolutionary development of a species or taxonomic group of organisms

Etymologies

Latin ēvolūtiō, ēvolūtiōn-, from ēvolūtus, past participle of ēvolvere, to unroll; see evolve.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin ēvolūtiō ("the act of unrolling, unfolding or opening (of a book)"), from ēvolūtus, perfect passive participle of ēvolvō ("unroll, unfold"), from ē ("out of"), short form of ex, + volvō ("roll"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • Wow, skip, the comments on that post are almost as disturbing as the post itself. Yikes!

    April 6, 2009

  • Word. I'm going to start posting these observations there.

    April 6, 2009

  • That might belong on devolution.

    April 6, 2009

  • OK--this isn't about evolution, specifically, but it partially answers a question I posed a few days ago: Can we get any more stupid?

    Apparently, we can.

    April 6, 2009

  • As a comment on the word itself, it should be pointed out that it has had a great many and various meanings in its history (in English, Latin, French, etc.), numerous of them in biology; and all of those now entirely obsolete except Darwin's. Lack of awareness of this history may lead to strange misinterpretations of the history of biology, or of social science, since the Darwinian meaning is now so completely dominant it is too easy to think it was the one that was meant.

    The first meaning in English was a kind of military manoeuvre. Darwin wasn't the first to espouse what we now call evolution in biology, nor the first to use that word for it (Lyell 1832 was), nor does the word appear in The Origin of Species till the 1873 sixth edition, in which he could say, 'At the present day almost all naturalists admit evolution under some form.' (The last word of the first edition, however, is 'evolved'.)

    Amsuingly, the quotation after his in the OED is from Popular Science Monthly in 1880: 'I should regard a teacher of science who denied the truth of evolution as being as incompetent as one who doubted the Copernican theory.'

    March 25, 2009

  • *raises hand* Eighteen (well, officially, 16) years of Catholic school here--and experiences similar to chained_bear's. Oh, we were taught the Bible and the story of creation and all that, but it wasn't presented as a replacement for evolution.

    March 25, 2009

  • *raises hand* Twelve years of Catholic school. Perhaps surprisingly, we were not taught that evolution was wrong. We were also taught, in excruciating detail, all about contraception and other sexual topics.

    I'm continually amazed, as I meet adults who went to public schools (public schools in the U.S. are not the same thing as those with the same name in the UK or Australia), of how ignorant they are on topics (like contraception, venereal disease, etc.) that all of us Catholic kids thought public school kids knew. Perhaps by osmosis.

    ... and that would be the root of my error, probably...

    At any rate, they did teach us evolution in Catholic school, and they did not teach it alongside anything so silly as "intelligent design." I don't know what Catholic schools are like now, and this was decades ago, so perhaps they've joined the chorus of anti-science.

    Science. It works, bitches.

    March 25, 2009

  • Oh, it's not just Americans, c_b. My (vaguely religious) school taught us a bit about evolution but the Big Bang theory was banned. The logic behind that continues to be lost on me, even after 6 years.

    March 25, 2009

  • You're right, skipvia. I just read that article and now I'm terribly depressed and convinced it's the duty of every card-carrying Wordizen to begin immediately the task of breeding stupidity out of humans. Or at least out of Americans.

    March 25, 2009

  • "The textbooks will 'have to say that there's a problem with evolution--because there is,' said Dr. McLeroy, a dentist. 'We need to be honest with the kids.'" (italics mine)

    I'm embarrassed to say that a similar issue arose in Pennsylvania a few years ago.

    March 25, 2009

  • I don't care either way, even though I live in the heart of darkness, whoops, Darwin. I'm not a biologist or in fact any kind of scientist, nor do I follow a religion which demands fervent adherence to creationism. So I think I'll go eat some pineapple.

    March 25, 2009

  • There is a case the norwegian media is running where a teacher in a school outside Oslo made an article to the kids at the school telling them that there is no ground for Darwin`s theory, and that the big bang is just a hoax.

    March 25, 2009

  • There's certainly ample evidence for that, c_b. See American Kids; Dumber Than Dirt.

    What was that about breeding, c_b?

    March 25, 2009

  • The worst part is how many textbook publishers market specifically to Texas and then sell the stuff elsewhere. (California, Texas, Florida...) Dammit.

    It must be true. We're evolving into a stupider species.

    March 25, 2009

  • Again?! By Darwin's beard...

    March 25, 2009

  • I'm so glad the good folks in Texas have our backs. Can we get any more stupid?

    March 25, 2009

  • Recommended read: 'Mr Darwin's Shooter' by the highly-talented Roger MacDonald..

    February 15, 2009

  • A belated happy 200th birthday to Mr. Darwin!

    February 15, 2009

  • Steven Pinker's "The Language Instinct" is a great book about language evolution.

    July 30, 2008

  • Interesting, skip! Thanks for the link. :-)

    July 30, 2008

  • Interesting article in this Wired Science article about the evolution of language. My favorite notion:

    "But what's evolving here isn't the agents" -- the speakers -- "but the language itself. It has its own evolutionary imperative. It wants to be passed on, and finds ways of doing that. We're its hosts."

    July 30, 2008

  • You can never tell.

    October 20, 2007

  • Do you really think those 47% of Americans hang out on Wordie, though? ;)

    October 20, 2007

  • "Our current theory" implies that there was at some point a previous version, or that in the future there will be a different version. I realize you were making a joke, but I feel the need to point this out, since something like 47% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

    October 19, 2007

  • Our current theory of evolution certainly is insulting to the apes.

    October 19, 2007

  • It's evolution baby!

    October 19, 2007