To govern is to rule, lead, oversee, or otherwise control. Each U.S. state has its own governor, whose job it is to govern the affairs of that state.

While it's true that governors govern — that is, they head the executive branch of their state government — there are lots of other ways to use the verb govern. Almost anything that controls or has a lot of influence over something else can be said to govern. The rules of tennis, for example, govern the way that game is played. In mechanics, a device that controls other devices is called a governor. My dog's basic needs govern the way my household is run: his schedule is our schedule.

Definitions of govern
  1. verb
    exercise authority over; as of nations
    “Who is governing the country now?”
    synonyms: rule
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    sit on the throne as a ruler
    govern badly
    rule as a dictator
    have sovereign power
    grind down, tyrannise, tyrannize
    rule a country as a tyrant
    type of:
    command, control
    exercise authoritative control or power over
  2. verb
    direct or strongly influence the behavior of
    “His belief in God governs his conduct”
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    type of:
    command, control
    exercise authoritative control or power over
  3. verb
    bring into conformity with rules or principles or usage; impose regulations
    synonyms: order, regularise, regularize, regulate
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    lift the regulations on
    standardise, standardize
    cause to conform to standard or norm
    district, zone
    regulate housing in; of certain areas of towns
    adapt to a specified measurement
    type of:
    decide, determine, make up one's mind
    reach, make, or come to a decision about something
  4. verb
    require to be in a certain grammatical case, voice, or mood
    “most transitive verbs govern the accusative case in German”
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    type of:
    ask, call for, demand, involve, necessitate, need, postulate, require, take
    require as useful, just, or proper
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