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verb (used with object)
  1. to rule over by right of authority: to govern a nation.
  2. to exercise a directing or restraining influence over; guide: the motives governing a decision.
  3. to hold in check; control: to govern one's temper.
  4. to serve as or constitute a law for: the principles governing a case.
  5. Grammar. to be regularly accompanied by or require the use of (a particular form). In They helped us, the verb helped governs the objective case of the pronoun we.
  6. to regulate the speed of (an engine) with a governor.
verb (used without object)
  1. to exercise the function of government.
  2. to have predominating influence.

Origin of govern

1250–1300; Middle English < Old French gouverner < Latin gubernāre to steer (a ship) < Greek kybernân to steer
Related formsgov·ern·a·ble, adjectivegov·ern·a·bil·i·ty, gov·ern·a·ble·ness, nouno·ver·gov·ern, verb (used with object)re·gov·ern, verb (used with object)su·per·gov·ern, verb (used with object)un·gov·erned, adjectiveun·gov·ern·ing, adjectivewell-gov·erned, adjective

Synonyms for govern

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Synonym study

1. See rule.

Antonyms for govern

1. obey. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for govern

Contemporary Examples of govern

Historical Examples of govern

British Dictionary definitions for govern


verb (mainly tr)
  1. (also intr) to direct and control the actions, affairs, policies, functions, etc, of (a political unit, organization, nation, etc); rule
  2. to exercise restraint over; regulate or directto govern one's temper
  3. to be a predominant influence on (something); decide or determine (something)his injury governed his decision to avoid sports
  4. to control the speed of (an engine, machine, etc) using a governor
  5. to control the rate of flow of (a fluid) by using an automatic valve
  6. (of a word) to determine the inflection of (another word)Latin nouns govern adjectives that modify them
Derived Formsgovernable, adjectivegovernability or governableness, noun

Word Origin for govern

C13: from Old French gouverner, from Latin gubernāre to steer, from Greek kubernan
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for govern

late 13c., from Old French governer (11c., Modern French gouverner) "govern," from Latin gubernare "to direct, rule, guide, govern" (cf. Spanish gobernar, Italian governare), originally "to steer," a nautical borrowing from Greek kybernan "to steer or pilot a ship, direct" (the root of cybernetics). The -k- to -g- sound shift is perhaps via the medium of Etruscan. Related: Governed; governing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper