v. de·vel·oped, de·vel·op·ing, de·vel·ops
1. To bring from latency to or toward fulfillment: an instructor who develops the capabilities of each student.
a. To expand or enlarge: developed a national corporation into a worldwide business.
b. To aid in the growth of; strengthen: exercises that develop muscles.
c. To improve the quality of; refine: develops his recipes to perfection; an extra year of study to develop virtuosic technique.
a. To cause to become more complex or intricate; add detail and fullness to; elaborate: began with a good premise but developed it without imagination.
b. Music To elaborate (a theme) with rhythmic and harmonic variations.
a. To bring into being gradually: develop a new cottage industry.
b. To set forth or clarify by degrees: developed her thesis in a series of articles.
a. To come to have gradually; acquire: develop a taste for opera; develop a friendship.
b. To become affected with; contract: developed a rash; developed agoraphobia.
6. To cause gradually to acquire a specific role, function, or form, as:
a. To influence the behavior of toward a specific end: an investigator who develops witnesses through flattery and intimidation.
b. To cause (a tract of land or a building) to serve a particular purpose: developed the site as a community of condominiums.
c. To make available and effective to fulfill a particular end or need: develop the state's water resources to serve a growing population.
d. To convert or transform: developed the play into a movie.
7. Games To move (a chess piece) to or toward a more strategic position.
a. To process (a photosensitive medium such as exposed film) in order to produce a photographic image.
b. To produce (a photographic image) by use of a photosensitive medium or by printing from a digital file.
a. To grow by degrees into a more advanced or mature state: With hard work, she developed into a great writer.
b. To increase or expand: Sales developed until we needed a bigger warehouse.
c. To improve; advance: Their skill developed until it rivaled their teacher's.
2. To come gradually into existence or activity: Tension developed between students and faculty.
3. To come gradually to light; be disclosed: reports the news as it develops.
a. To progress from earlier to later stages of a life cycle: Caterpillars develop into butterflies.
b. To progress from earlier to later stages of evolution: Mammals developed during the Mesozoic Era.
c. To acquire secondary sex characteristics. Used especially of a girl.
[French développer, from Old French desveloper : des-, dis- + voloper, to wrap (possibly of Celtic origin).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 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.