[ guhv-ern ]
/ ˈgʌv ərn /
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See synonyms for: govern / governed / governing / governs on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
to exercise the function of government.
to have predominating influence.
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Origin of govern

1250–1300; Middle English <Old French gouverner<Latin gubernāre to steer (a ship) <Greek kybernân to steer

synonym study for govern

1. See rule.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does govern mean?

Govern means to rule over something with authority, as in In a democracy, people elect those who will govern them.

Govern can also mean to hold something in check, like your temper.

And govern can mean to act as a guiding force, as when your stomach governs your food choices.

Govern, meaning to rule over something, is almost always used to refer to government or politics, as in The president did his best to govern the country during the war. Presidents and prime ministers are examples of people who govern countries or nations. A person who governs something might be called a governor but is just as likely to be referred to by an official title.

Govern can also mean to control or curb something, as in The waiter wanted to shout at the rude customer but he managed to govern his anger.

Govern is also used to mean to restrain influence over something by acting as a guide, as in The lawyer always let his strong sense of justice govern his actions.

Example: Most voters were undecided who would be better at governing the country.

Where does govern come from?

The first records of govern come from around 1250. It ultimately comes from the Greek kybernân, meaning “to steer.” In a manner of speaking, a person who governs something guides its course or direction.

Govern is a synonym of words such rule, command, or lead. However, govern usually implies that the person is the head of an organized state or a just administration. When a person is said to govern, this often means that they lead a state or bureaucracy but almost always have limited power. By contrast, people such as kings, queens, emperors, and dictators who have most or all of the political power are often said to rule a nation rather than govern it.

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What are some other forms related to govern?

  • government (noun)
  • governor (noun)
  • governable (adjective)
  • governability (noun)
  • overgovern (verb)

What are some synonyms for govern?

What are some words that share a root or word element with govern

What are some words that often get used in discussing govern?

How is govern used in real life?

Govern is a word that most often refers to the actions performed by a leader of a country or other organization.

Try using govern!

Which of the following people is most likely to govern something?

A. an electrician
B. a mayor
C. a police officer
D. a chef

How to use govern in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for govern

/ (ˈɡʌvən) /

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

Derived forms of govern

governable, 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