verb gov·ern \ˈgə-vərn\

: to officially control and lead (a group of people) : to make decisions about laws, taxes, social programs, etc., for (a country, state, etc.)

: to control the way that (something) is done

: to control or guide the actions of (someone or something)

Full Definition of GOVERN

transitive verb
a :  to exercise continuous sovereign authority over; especially :  to control and direct the making and administration of policy in
b :  to rule without sovereign power and usually without having the authority to determine basic policy
a archaic :  manipulate
b :  to control the speed of (as a machine) especially by automatic means
a :  to control, direct, or strongly influence the actions and conduct of
b :  to exert a determining or guiding influence in or over <income must govern expenditure>
c :  to hold in check :  restrain
:  to require (a word) to be in a certain case
:  to serve as a precedent or deciding principle for <customs that govern human decisions>
intransitive verb
:  to prevail or have decisive influence :  control
:  to exercise authority
gov·ern·able \-vər-nə-bəl\ adjective

Examples of GOVERN

  1. The tribe is governed by a 10-member council.
  2. They want to form their own country and govern themselves.
  3. The scandal limited her ability to govern effectively.
  4. How would he govern if he were elected president?
  5. She suggested changing the state's laws governing the sale of alcohol.
  6. The council governs fishing in the region.
  7. We will be studying the forces that govern the Earth's climate.
  8. Tradition governs all aspects of their lives.
  9. He allows himself to be governed by his emotions.

Origin of GOVERN

Middle English, from Anglo-French governer, from Latin gubernare to steer, govern, from Greek kybernan
First Known Use: 14th century
GOVERNS Defined for Kids


verb gov·ern \ˈgə-vərn\

Definition of GOVERN for Kids

:  2rule 1
:  to influence the actions and conduct of :  control <“… a kind word will govern me …” — Louisa May Alcott, Little Women>
:  to serve as a rule for <Laws governing the Internet are changing.>


Next Word in the Dictionary: governancePrevious Word in the Dictionary: govAll Words Near: govern
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears