[guhv-ern-muh nt, ‐er-muh nt]
  1. the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration: Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society.
  2. the form or system of rule by which a state, community, etc., is governed: monarchical government; episcopal government.
  3. the governing body of persons in a state, community, etc.; administration.
  4. a branch or service of the supreme authority of a state or nation, taken as representing the whole: a dam built by the government.
  5. (in some parliamentary systems, as that of the United Kingdom)
    1. the particular group of persons forming the cabinet at any given time: The prime minister has formed a new government.
    2. the parliament along with the cabinet: The government has fallen.
  6. direction; control; management; rule: the government of one's conduct.
  7. a district governed; province.
  8. political science.
  9. Grammar. the extablished usage that requires that one word in a sentence should cause another to be of a particular form: the government of the verb by its subject.

Origin of government

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English word from Old French word governement. See govern, -ment
Related formsgov·ern·men·tal [guhv-ern-men-tl, ‐er-men‐] /ˌgʌv ərnˈmɛn tl, ‐ərˈmɛn‐/, adjectivegov·ern·men·tal·ly, adverbcoun·ter·gov·ern·ment, nounnon·gov·ern·ment, nounnon·gov·ern·men·tal, adjectivepro-gov·ern·ment, adjectivere·gov·ern·ment, nounsem·i·gov·ern·men·tal, adjectivesem·i·gov·ern·men·tal·ly, adverbsub·gov·ern·ment, nounun·der·gov·ern·ment, nounun·gov·ern·men·tal, adjectiveun·gov·ern·men·tal·ly, adverb

Usage note

Pronunciation note

Normal phonological processes are reflected in a variety of pronunciations for government. Most commonly, the first [n] /n/ of [guhv-ern-muh nt] /ˈgʌv ərn mənt/ assimilates to the immediately following [m] /m/, with the resulting identical nasal sounds coalescing to give the pronunciation [guhv-er-muh nt] /ˈgʌv ər mənt/. This pronunciation is considered standard and occurs throughout the U.S. For speakers in regions where postvocalic [r] /r/ is regularly lost, as along the Eastern Seaboard and in the South, the resulting pronunciation is [guhv-uh-muh nt] /ˈgʌv ə mənt/ or, with loss of the medial unstressed vowel, [guhv-muh nt] /ˈgʌv mənt/. Further assimilation, in which the labiodental [v] /v/, in anticipation of the bilabial quality of the following [m] /m/, becomes the bilabial stop [b] /b/, leads in the South Midland and Southern U.S. to the pronunciation [guhb-muh nt] /ˈgʌb mənt/. See isn't. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for subgovernment


  1. the exercise of political authority over the actions, affairs, etc, of a political unit, people, etc, as well as the performance of certain functions for this unit or body; the action of governing; political rule and administration
  2. the system or form by which a community, etc, is ruledtyrannical government
    1. the executive policy-making body of a political unit, community, etc; ministry or administrationyesterday we got a new government
    2. (capital when of a specific country)the British Government
    1. the state and its administrationblame it on the government
    2. (as modifier)a government agency
  3. regulation; direction
  4. grammar the determination of the form of one word by another word
Derived Formsgovernmental (ˌɡʌvənˈmɛntəl, ˌɡʌvəˈmɛntəl), adjectivegovernmentally, adverb
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 subgovernment



late 14c., "act of governing or ruling;" 1550s, "system by which a thing is governed" (especially a state), from Old French governement (Modern French gouvernement), from governer (see govern). Replaced Middle English governance. Meaning "governing power" in a given place is from 1702.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper