late 14c., "act of governing or ruling;" 1550s, "system by which a thing is governed" (especially a state), from Old French governement "control, direction, administration" (Modern French gouvernement), from governer "to steer, be at the helm of; govern, rule, command, direct," from Latin gubernare "to direct, rule, guide, govern," originally "to steer, to pilot"(see govern). Meaning "governing power" in a given place is from 1702. Compare governance.
1734, of persons, "self-control;" 1798, of states, nations, provinces, cities, etc., "administration of its own affairs without outside direction or interference," from self- + government. Related: Self-governing (1680s); self-governed (1709 as an adjective, of persons, "marked by self-control").
1744, from government + -al (1). Related: Governmentally. A Middle English word in the same sense was gubernatif (late 14c.).
late 14c., "want of self-restraint, misbehavior" (a sense now obsolete), from mis- (1) "badly, wrongly" + government. Meaning "bad government, management, or administration of public or private affairs" is from 1590s.
"FBI agent," 1930, shortening of government man; used earlier in an Irish context (1917), but the abbreviation is perhaps the same one.
"disposition to enlarge the power and scope of the government," 1841, from governmental + -ism; originally in reference to France and perhaps from French.
Besides this, it is a well known fact, one made sufficiently clear by the history of the United States, that the less governmentalism there is in a country, the better it is for the citizens as to their material interests. A very complicated governmental apparatus, when, especially, it is useless, is and can be only hurtful to the interests of the mass of the people. [Amedee H. Simonin, "Resumption of Specie Payments," 1868]