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Filibuster is a word in American English that has been in the language since the mid-1800s. We will examine the meaning of the term filibuster, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To filibuster means to block legislation by prolonging debate on the subject long past the time of the usefulness of such debate. A filibuster is a stalling tactic used primarily in the United States’ Senate. A filibuster may be ended by a cloture vote. The word filibuster  is derived from the French word flibutor, which is a term for a buccaneer of the 17th century who plied his trade in the West Indies. The word was first Anglicized as freebooter, then finally filibuster. In the mid-1800s the word filibuster was used to describe American citizens in Latin American countries who attempted to foment revolution, to sabotage existing Latin American governments. It is this sense meaning sabotage which brought the term filibuster into American politics. Filibuster is used as a noun or an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are filibusters, filibustered, filibustering.


“Still, there will come a point — if not under this majority leader, then under some other — when the legislative filibuster consistently frustrates lawmaking in which the party that controls Washington is deeply invested.” (The Washington Post)

In practice, lawmakers need merely threaten a filibuster to put a bill, or a Supreme Court nominee, on indefinite hold out of partisan spite or personal pique. (The Atlantic Magazine)

Scheer’s decision followed on the heels of legislative approval Wednesday of a motion to leave current minority filibuster rights in place at least for another month. (The Lincoln Journal-Star)