Evo-devo (noun) is a compound of the clippings for evolutionary and developmental biology. Evo-devo traces the evolution of developmental biology among many species to determine their ancestral relationship.


Evolutionary (adj; borrowing from Latin ēvolvere; 1673) Relating to or of evolution. Uses the suffix -ary (Latin -āri-us-āri-um) to mean “connected with” or “a place for”

Evolution (noun; Latin ēvolūtiōn; 1616In the biological sense it the process by which organisms develop and gradually change from a simpler to a more complex form. Evolution takes the suffix -ion (French, Latin borrowing) It turns the verb evolve into a noun meaning the process of; the process of evolving.
Evolve comes from the Latin volvĕre meaning to turn over, roll
The prefix E- is used as a shortening of ex (Latin; 1398). It can mean out, forth, and upward.

Development (noun; French développement; 1756The process or fact of developing, gradual unfolding, a fuller disclosure or working out of details
Uses the suffix -ment (French -ment; Latin -mentum) to form nouns from verbs

Develop (verb; French développe-r; 1592To open gradually, grow, progress in complexity, or to mature.
Develop comes from an earlier disvelop (noun; English; 14th century)
Dis means to undo, in this case, to dis envelop or unfold.
-velop comes from the Italian verb viluppare, to entangle, bundle, fold, or roll. A viluppo is an enwrapping, bundle, or enfolding
The etymology is more easily understood by the phrase to let an idea unfold. This means that the idea is progressing or developing. Here it is more apparent that develop comes from dis envelop.

Societal Information: Dictionary.com categorizes it as “informal science”. This word is not yet in the OED because it is not used frequently enough. Typically people use its parts to describe a concept such as evolution, development, heredity, mutations, taxonomy. There are already sufficient words to describe the concept and this word was very recently coined, in the late 90s, so its usage is very low. NPG has many biological journals, but the first reference to evo-devo was in the year 2000. The article can be found at: http://www.nature.com/search?journal=nrg&order=date_asc&q=evo-devo

Evo|[ndash]|devo: extending the evolutionary synthesis

Examples of Evo–devo questions that aid in the understanding of its concerns:

  • How are developmental processes modified in evolution?
  • How does development contribute to phenotypic novelty?
  • How does development affect the organization of phenotypes?
  • How does the environment interact with developmental processes?
  • How does environmental change influence phenotypic evolution?

Lexicopinions: I discovered this word by talking to one of the biology professors who studies development. To me, the word is obscure and difficult to come across. For people with not a lot of experience in biology, such as only having taken high school biology, the word is unknown. The concept, though, is definitely a topic touched upon at least briefly. One would hear about this when learning about taxonomy and how relationships between species are discovered. In evo-devo specifically, the relationship between species’ developmental processes are studied. The history of the changes in such processes results in the determination of their genetic ancestry.

Survival Prediction: This is a pretty easy word to remember because it is so short and has repetition. It is also fun to say and not intimidating like other science jargon. Memorability is very important for a word’s survival. I think that most science jargon have to survive because they are constantly being studied. Even information or theories that are outdated are still referred to today so it doesn’t matter if the word is new or correct, science terminology tends to stick around for a very long time. Since this is a new, more in depth field in biology, it is likely to survive as long as the concept is still studied and for many years after people’s concern with it fades.


  1. As a neuroscience major, this is actually a word I have come across multiple times in my classes. My biology teacher described evo-devo as studying the question: how did changes in developmentally important genes lead to the development of new phenotypes? Evo-devo is a growing field in biology as people begin to understand more about hox genes and other regulatory genes. I definitely expect it to survive because it is catchy and easy to say, while also alluding to what it means. I almost think its a little too catchy– the fact that it rhymes makes it seem a little informal and kid-ish to be such an important scientific term in my opinion. Plus, it always makes me think of Evil Kenevil, which is completely unrelated to the word. Overall, I think it’s an important word to the field of biology and is convenient to use. However, the silly sound to the word does not match the importance of the field it describes. It will probably survive, but I wish it would be changed to something a little more serious sounding.

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