Meaning of govern in English:


Pronunciation /ˈɡʌvn/

See synonyms for govern

Translate govern into Spanish


[with object]
  • 1Conduct the policy, actions, and affairs of (a state, organization, or people) with authority.

    ‘he was incapable of governing the country’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If governing a state is like steering a ship, however, what we need are reliable facts and sound explanations of how the vessel works.’
    • ‘Thus when practised, Communism has often resulted in the exploitation of the individual as a servant to the state and those who govern the state have gained much.’
    • ‘It was a time of considerable turmoil in the cities and it was to govern the state with a fair, but at the same time, a firm hand.’
    • ‘It also set up local governing organizations and cooperatives, that have allowed the peasants to attain more control of their lives and livelihood.’
    • ‘The new Irish state was governed, like its northern counterpart, by a bicameral parliament whose procedures were loosely modelled on those of Westminster.’
    • ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the formal name of the sovereign state governed by Parliament in London.’
    • ‘The organization is governed by a conference that meets every four years, with each state and each national society having a representative and an equal vote.’
    • ‘The Netherlands is a unitary state governed by a central body.’
    • ‘The organization is governed by a board of directors that represents all parts of the industry.’
    • ‘He's working to head off future suits by trying to persuade Oregon's high school sports governing organization to draw up guidelines about proper conduct for coaches.’
    • ‘The new Belgian state was mostly governed by French speakers.’
    • ‘A fifty-member volunteer board of directors governed the organization.’
    • ‘We want a state governed by institutions, a state which is subject to law.’
    • ‘Drug testing, legal and social issues, and future directions by sports governing organizations are also discussed.’
    • ‘The new law makes significant changes in the way these organizations are governed and how funds are raised.’
    • ‘They were territorial states governed by absolutist monarchs engaged in a struggle for security and survival.’
    • ‘It governs the organisation and operations of the Olympic Movement and stipulates the conditions for the celebration of Olympic Games.’
    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
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    1. 1.1Control, influence, or regulate (a person, action, or course of events)
      ‘the future of Jamaica will be governed by geography not history’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘All of these events are governed by the fundamental laws of physics which, as far as we know, can not be violated.’
      • ‘According to the organisers, laws and regulations governing our marine environment are a mess of contradiction, loopholes and environmental lunacy.’
      • ‘There are strict rules and regulations governing these types of events.’
      • ‘In most cases the laws and regulations governing the establishment of an airgun range are much less strict than those involved in establishing a firearm range.’
      • ‘The report continues to state that the same sort of regulations that control tobacco should govern marijuana.’
      • ‘Complex laws and regulations govern the cancellation of debts once soldiers leave the service, he said.’
      • ‘They should work whatever hours are necessary, with minimal regulation governing the hours and conditions of work, and they should commit themselves to participating in civil society.’
      • ‘State laws and regulations govern the profession of nursing.’
      • ‘The war effort was governed throughout its course by War Directives which came from Hitler himself.’
      • ‘Of course, other regulators and legislation govern these products, but voluntary regulation will never be as forceful as the statutory requirements.’
      • ‘While controlling some things that govern our lives we acknowledge the existence of other forces about which we can do little or nothing.’
      • ‘There are no straight-forward villains, merely morally ambiguous characters who are drawn into an increasingly complex world that is governed by events beyond their control.’
      • ‘The historian can discern regular patterns and sequences, and thereby identify laws governing social development which are operative in societies of similar character, however distant in space or time.’
      • ‘Why is that inflammable liquids such as petrol, paraffin and others are sold and stored at these markets without due regard to safety regulations governing the handling of such substances?’
      • ‘The new regulation governing the regime was finally agreed at the beginning of November and it will come into effect from January 1, 2002.’
      • ‘A policy governing the allocation of space for buses and taxis at council-owned ranks around Johannesburg has been approved after a series of consultative workshops.’
      • ‘Status and civic ideology governed the allocation of scarce resources.’
      determine, decide, control, regulate, direct, rule, dictate, condition, form, shape
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    2. 1.2govern oneselfConduct oneself, especially with regard to controlling one's emotions.
      ‘he does not have the ability to govern himself or others successfully’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She understood that if a ruler cannot govern herself, she will not be able to govern others, and the result will be tyranny.’
      control, restrain, keep in check, check, curb, hold back, keep back, bridle, rein in, keep a tight rein on, subdue, constrain, contain
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    3. 1.3Serve to decide (a legal case).
      ‘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.’
      • ‘It is beyond dispute that the arbitration in this case was governed by the Arbitration Act.’
      • ‘State law generally governs libel cases (though federal First Amendment law is also obviously relevant), and libel law varies state by state.’
      • ‘This view is consistent with the general rule that has been set by the Supreme Court to govern those cases where religious beliefs conflict with secular laws.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, attorneys familiar with child custody law have pointed out that the decision is itself a gross violation of the Uniform Child Custody Act, which governs such cases throughout the country.’
      • ‘The standards and procedures that should govern this case on remand are not for us to resolve in the first instance.’
      • ‘A spokesman for the court's fines office said they were unable to discuss details because of restrictions governing cases involving youths.’
  • 2Grammar
    (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’
    • ‘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’.’


Middle English from Old French governer, from Latin gubernare ‘to steer, rule’, from Greek kubernan ‘to steer’.