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

  • n. A contrivance or an invention serving a particular purpose, especially a machine used to perform one or more relatively simple tasks.
  • n. A technique or means.
  • n. A plan or scheme, especially a malign one.
  • n. A literary contrivance, such as parallelism or personification, used to achieve a particular effect.
  • n. A decorative design, figure, or pattern, as one used in embroidery. See Synonyms at figure.
  • n. A graphic symbol or motto, especially in heraldry.
  • n. Archaic The act, state, or power of devising.
  • idiom leave to (one's) own devices To allow to do as one pleases: left the child to her own devices for an hour in the afternoon.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any piece of equipment made for a particular purpose, especially a mechanical or electrical one.
  • n. A project or scheme, often designed to deceive; a stratagem; an artifice.
  • n. A technique that an author or speaker uses to evoke an emotional response in the audience; a rhetorical device.
  • n. ​(heraldry) A motto, emblem, or other mark used to distinguish the bearer from others. A device differs from a badge or cognizance primarily because as it is a personal distinction, and not a badge borne by members of the same house successively.
  • n. Power of devising; invention; contrivance.
  • n. An image used in whole or in part as a trademark or service mark.
  • n. An image or logo denoting official or proprietary authority or provenience.
  • n. A spectacle or show.
  • n. Opinion; decision.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. That which is devised, or formed by design; a contrivance; an invention; a project; a scheme; often, a scheme to deceive; a stratagem; an artifice.
  • n. Power of devising; invention; contrivance.
  • n.
  • n. An emblematic design, generally consisting of one or more figures with a motto, used apart from heraldic bearings to denote the historical situation, the ambition, or the desire of the person adopting it. See Cognizance.
  • n. Improperly, an heraldic bearing.
  • n. Anything fancifully conceived.
  • n. A spectacle or show.
  • n. Opinion; decision.
  • n. any artifactual object designed to perform an action or process, with or without an operator in attendance.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Disposition; desire; will; pleasure.
  • n. Opinion; view.
  • n. The act or state of devising or inventing; invention; inventiveness; a contriving.
  • n. An invention or a contrivance; something devised or fitted for a particular use or purpose, especially something of a simple character or of little complexity: as, a device for checking motion.
  • n. A scheme or plan; something devised or studied out for promoting an end; specifically, something contrived for an evil or a selfish purpose; a wrongful project, stratagem, or trick.
  • n. Something fancifully designed, as a picture, a, pattern, a piece of embroidery, the cut or ornament of a garment, etc.
  • n. The representation of some object, group of objects, or scene, generally accompanied by a motto or other legend, and used as an expression of the bearer's aspirations or principles.
  • n.
  • n. The motto attached to or suited for such an emblem.
  • n. A spectacle; a show.
  • n. Synonyms Contrivance, Shift, etc. (see expedient, n.; see also artifice), wile, ruse, manœuver, trick.
  • n. Design, symbol.

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

  • n. an instrumentality invented for a particular purpose
  • n. any clever maneuver
  • n. something in an artistic work designed to achieve a particular effect
  • n. any ornamental pattern or design (as in embroidery)
  • n. an emblematic design (especially in heraldry)


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.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old French devis, from Latin divisus, past participle of dividere ("to divide"), thus originally, when goods were being divided among people, a mark put on each item to say who was getting what. (Wiktionary)



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  • In rare/antique books, a printer's ornament or a publisher's identifying mark, usually on the copyright page of a book. Sometimes used interchangeably with colophon.

    February 22, 2007