late 13c., "to rule with authority," from Old French governer "steer, be at the helm of; govern, rule, command, direct" (11c., Modern French gouverner), from Latin gubernare "to direct, rule, guide, govern" (source also of Spanish gobernar, Italian governare), originally "to steer, to pilot," a nautical borrowing from Greek kybernan "to steer or pilot a ship, direct as a pilot," figuratively "to guide, govern" (the root of cybernetics). The -k- to -g- sound shift is perhaps via the medium of Etruscan. Intransitive sense from 1590s. Related: Governed; governing.
late 14c., "act or manner of governing," from Old French governance "government, rule, administration; (rule of) conduct" (Modern French gouvernance), from governer "to govern, rule, command" (see govern). Fowler writes that the word "has now the dignity of incipient archaism," but it might continue useful in its original sense as government comes to mean primarily "the governing power in a state."