[ guhv-ern ]
See synonyms for: governgovernedgoverninggoverns on

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.

  1. to hold in check; control: to govern one's temper.

  2. to serve as or constitute a law for: the principles governing a case.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English, from Old French gouverner, from Latin gubernāre “to steer (a ship),” from Greek kybernân “to steer”; cf. cybernetics

synonym study For govern

1. See rule.

Other words for govern

Opposites for govern

Other words from govern

  • gov·ern·a·ble, adjective
  • gov·ern·a·bil·i·ty, gov·ern·a·ble·ness, noun
  • o·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, adjective
  • un·gov·ern·ing, adjective
  • well-governed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use govern in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for govern


/ (ˈɡʌvən) /

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 direct: to govern one's temper

  1. to be a predominant influence on (something); decide or determine (something): his injury governed his decision to avoid sports

  2. to control the speed of (an engine, machine, etc) using a governor

  3. to control the rate of flow of (a fluid) by using an automatic valve

  4. (of a word) to determine the inflection of (another word): Latin nouns govern adjectives that modify them

Origin of govern

C13: from Old French gouverner, from Latin gubernāre to steer, from Greek kubernan

Derived forms of govern

  • governable, adjective
  • governability or governableness, noun

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