Definition of filibuster in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈfɪlɪbʌstə/


1An action such as prolonged speaking which obstructs progress in a legislative assembly in a way that does not technically contravene the required procedures.
Example sentences
  • With a tie in the Senate, filibusters can go on indefinitely, and the vice president will become the swing vote on key bills.
  • On presidential appointments - first, judges and now ambassador to the United Nations - they resort to the classic weapon of southern obstructionism: the filibuster.
  • Far too often, prolonged filibusters by those who disagree doom an idea that the vast majority supports.
delaying tactics, stonewalling, procrastination, obstruction, delaying, blocking, hold-up
US informal kicking the can down the road
2 historical A person engaging in unauthorized warfare against a foreign state.


[no object] (often as noun filibustering)
1Act in an obstructive manner in a legislative assembly, especially by speaking at inordinate length: several measures were killed by Republican filibustering
More example sentences
  • In the legislative session that ended in June, a lawmaker filibustered and killed a measure that would have placed a cap on the law.
  • That's been a conservative argument since 2003, when the Republicans gained the majority and the Democrats began filibustering.
  • Senate Republicans have been filibustering for the last three months to block consideration of a Democratic version of the homeland security legislation, which retained some union and civil service protection.
1.1 [with object] Obstruct (proposed legislation) with a filibuster.
Example sentences
  • Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is among lawmakers who have promised to filibuster legislation allowing drilling in the refuge.
  • And with regard to what Ed said about the bill on the floor, actually there's a bipartisan majority in favor of the Democratic position, and now the Republicans seem to be filibustering the bill.
  • Aside from filibustering the GOP's energy plan and blocking a handful of exceptionally reactionary judicial nominees, there are few success stories to which Democratic leaders can point.
waste time, stall, play for time, stonewall, procrastinate, buy time, employ delaying tactics;
obstruct, delay, block;
speak/talk at length, speak/talk on and on
informal speechify


Late 18th century: from French flibustier, first applied to pirates who pillaged the Spanish colonies in the West Indies. In the mid 19th century (via Spanish filibustero), the term denoted American adventurers who incited revolution in several Latin American states, whence sense 2 of the noun. The verb was used to describe tactics intended to sabotage US congressional proceedings, whence sense 1 of the noun.

  • A filibuster was an 18th-century pirate of the Caribbean. The word links a number of languages, reaching back through Spanish and French to vrijbuiter, from vrij ‘free’, and buit ‘booty’, a Dutch word from which we also get freebooter. In the 19th century the Spanish filibustero was used for American adventurers who stirred up revolution in Central and South America, and filibuster came to be used in the USA to describe behaviour in congressional debates intended to sabotage proceedings. From this we get the current sense, ‘a very long speech made in Parliament to prevent the passing of a new law’, which links the long-ago pirates with politicians of today.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: fili|bus¦ter

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