gov·ern | \ ˈgə-vərn \
governed; governing; governs

Definition of govern 

transitive verb

1a : to exercise continuous sovereign authority over especially : to control and direct the making and administration of policy in The country was governed by a king.

b : to rule without sovereign power and usually without having the authority to determine basic policy

2a archaic : manipulate

b : to control the speed of (a machine) especially by automatic means

3a : 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 was told to govern her emotions

4 : to require (a word) to be in a certain case

5 : to serve as a precedent or deciding principle for customs that govern human decisions

intransitive verb

1 : to prevail or have decisive influence : control In all situations allow reason to govern.

2 : to exercise authority

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Other words from govern

governable \ˈgə-vər-nə-bəl \ adjective

Examples of govern in a Sentence

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

Sponsorships from Chinese companies increasingly fund world soccer’s governing body, and as the Chinese government makes a strong push to become a soccer power, its citizens finally won’t have to stay up all night to watch a World Cup final. Kevin Draper, New York Times, "The World Cup Final’s Unconventional Start Time," 13 July 2018 The governing bodies for each sport effectively operate as independent non-profits but must meet requirements set by the USOC. Rachel Axon, USA TODAY, "USOC names new CEO at critical time for Olympic movement," 12 July 2018 Again, assuming none of the above happened, penalties from the NCAA would essentially be an admission of the governing body's own incompetence. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Mellinger Minutes: Whit not an All-Star (?), Jeff Long and KU, Chiefs fears, Odom's crossroads," 10 July 2018 That group was soccer’s (or football’s) first governing body, FIFA says. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "Here's Why English Soccer Fans Keep Chanting 'It's Coming Home'," 7 July 2018 Moreover, toss-winning captains do usually take this option, so FIFA, world football’s governing body, is trying out a system similar to a tiebreak in tennis, in which teams A and B take turns to shoot first: AB then BA then AB and so on. The Economist, "A practical guide to the most nail-biting part of the World Cup," 21 June 2018 The governing body of international soccer, FIFA, counsels referees to issue a yellow card when a player takes a dive. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Why soccer players take dives," 21 June 2018 In a statement sent to CNN, football's world governing body said Infantino had been reassured by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during that March visit that the ban on women would eventually be lifted, though no time was provided. Matias Grez, CNN, "'I'm already missing a heartbeat': Iranian women get to watch their team at World Cup," 15 June 2018 The bribery scandal put the governing body on the brink, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told the congress ahead of Wednesday's vote. Rob Harris And Graham Dunbar, The Christian Science Monitor, "US, Canada, Mexico win joint 2026 World Cup bid," 13 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'govern.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of govern

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for govern

Middle English, from Anglo-French governer, from Latin gubernare to steer, govern, from Greek kybernan

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Dictionary Entries near govern

gouty stem







Statistics for govern

Last Updated

18 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for govern

The first known use of govern was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for govern



English Language Learners Definition of govern

: 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)


gov·ern | \ ˈgə-vərn \
governed; governing

Kids Definition of govern

2 : to influence the actions and conduct of : control “… a kind word will govern me …” —Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

3 : to serve as a rule for Laws governing the Internet are changing.

gov·ern | \ ˈgə-vərn \

Legal Definition of govern 

1 : to exercise continuous sovereign authority over especially : to control and direct the administration of policy in

2 : to exert a determining or guiding influence in or over the testator's assets are governed by will substitutes —W. M. McGovern, Jr. et al.

3 : to serve as a precedent or deciding principle for the law governing bills of lading United States v. Leon governs the case at bar

Other words from govern

governable \ˈgə-vər-nə-bəl \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on govern

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for govern

Spanish Central: Translation of govern

Nglish: Translation of govern for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of govern for Arabic Speakers

Comments on govern

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the setting in which something occurs

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