Definition of govern in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈɡʌv(ə)n/


[with object]
1Conduct the policy, actions, and affairs of (a state, organization, or people) with authority: he was incapable of governing the country (as adjective governing) the governing coalition
More example sentences
  • It was expected that the task of governing the state would bring impartiality and moderation in their conduct.
  • Here in Tamil Nadu, the party which governs the state didn't win a single seat.
  • This is not an innocent programme, and in the past it's been closely linked to broader ideas of governing the state.
rule, preside over, be in power over, reign over, control, exercise control over, have control of, be in control of, be in charge of, command, hold sway over, hegemonize, lead, be the leader of, dominate, run, head, direct, administer, order, manage, regulate, guide, conduct, oversee, supervise, superintend, be at the helm of, steer, pilot
informal be in the driving seat
literary sway
1.1Control, influence, or regulate (a person, action, or course of events): the future of Jamaica will be governed by geography not history
More example sentences
  • Lith printing of course is governed by the laws of physics and chemistry.
  • These trajectories are governed by the fundamental laws of gravity and the motion of the object.
  • Within the limits of the laws and regulations that govern our work, we seek to provide the highest level of customer service.
determine, decide, control, regulate, direct, rule, dictate, condition, form, shape;
affect, have an effect on, influence, exert influence on, be a factor in, sway, act on, work on, mould, modify, alter, touch, have an impact on, impact on
1.2 (govern oneself) Conduct oneself, especially with regard to controlling one’s emotions: he does not have the ability to govern himself or others successfully
More example sentences
  • We believe in the right of British people to govern themselves and control their own borders.
  • You have now been provided notice of the law, and thus, please govern yourself accordingly.
  • I think the question you're trying to ask is whether I am able to govern myself well, and by that I mean, am I able to regulate my thoughts and actions according to a set of personal values, morals, ethics, etc.
control, restrain, keep in check, check, curb, hold back, keep back, bridle, rein in, keep a tight rein on, subdue, constrain, contain
1.3Serve to decide (a legal case).
Example sentences
  • The previous chapter discussed the substantive law that governs malpractice cases.
  • The judge proceeded on the basis that the case was governed by the Criminal Justice Act 1988 as amended by the Proceeds of Crime Act 1995.
  • That was a decision of the Privy Council on appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada regarding a case governed by the law of Quebec.
2 Grammar (Of a word) require that (another word or group of words) be in a particular case: the Latin preposition ‘cum’ governs nouns in the ablative
More example sentences
  • Verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, a transitive verb governs an object, whereas an intransitive verb does not.
  • The Greek preposition had several meanings, depending on whether it governed the accusative, genitive, or dative case.
  • In the absence of any rule governing the cases of pronouns the authors conclude it is not ‘wrong’ to say ‘They invited my partner and I to lunch’.



Pronunciation: /ɡʌv(ə)nəˈbɪlɪti/
Example sentences
  • The possibilities of stability and governability are very slim.
  • Ironically, with the arrival of elected governments, we have witnessed the aggressive, disproportionate growth of corruption, to the degree that it has become the main obstacle to governability.
  • Today, the trust in the leadership, the governability, the economic future and even social attitudes are rapidly disintegrating.


Pronunciation: /ˈɡʌvənəb(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • We were supposed to become unthinking, obedient, silent and submissive so as to be governable, exploitable and harmless.
  • The country appears to be both viable and governable.
  • Its 25 members are discussing proposals for a new, carefully crafted constitution that will make it at once more governable and more democratic - a pipedream even 18 months ago.


Middle English: from Old French governer, from Latin gubernare 'to steer, rule', from Greek kubernan 'to steer'.

  • Govern is from Old French governer (and of Middle English government), from Latin gubernare ‘to steer, rule’ which came in turn from Greek kubernan ‘to steer’. Governess (Middle English) was originally governeress meaning ‘a female ruler’.

Words that rhyme with govern

coven, misgovern, oven, sloven

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: gov¦ern

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.