Governance Origin

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The term ‘governance’ has fallen into disuse (Hufty, 2009), it originates from a Greek verb ‘kubernân’ which refers to the verb ‘pilot’ (Oliveira, 2003) in reference to ‘pilot a ship’. The Greek term subsequently gave birth to the Latin verb ‘gubernare’ of similar meaning; its derivative ‘gubernantia’, in turn, gave birth to other words in many languages, including English and French (Oliveira, 2003). In the middle ages, the French term gouvernance was subjected to multiple meanings, the most prevalent, and the term that was passed on into English being ‘the art’ or ‘way of governing’ (Oliveira, 2003).


The evolution tree depicted above demonstrates the evolution of the term from its origins as a Greek verb, through to its present accepted representation as a noun. The original word described ‘the act of controlling a ship’ by an individual (to pilot), this evolved into the term governance that refers to a model that describes the scope of ‘govern’ action, making a more generic non-subjective term. Despite the vague historical evolution of the word, it is clear that development of the word was driven by the need for a word that conveys a generic action of influencing control and rather than controlling. It can be observed, that at least logically this makes sense, as the usage of the term in govern an individual opposed to controlling an individual would provide an opportunity to explore other factors, i.e. other actions that limit individuals free will to reject control.