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[fil-uh-buhs-ter] /ˈfɪl əˌbʌs tər/
U.S. Politics.
  1. the use of irregular or obstructive tactics by a member of a legislative assembly to prevent the adoption of a measure generally favored or to force a decision against the will of the majority.
  2. an exceptionally long speech, as one lasting for a day or days, or a series of such speeches to accomplish this purpose.
  3. a member of a legislature who makes such a speech.
an irregular military adventurer, especially one who engages in an unauthorized military expedition into a foreign country to foment or support a revolution.
verb (used without object)
U.S. Politics. to impede legislation by irregular or obstructive tactics, especially by making long speeches.
to act as an irregular military adventurer, especially for revolutionary purposes.
verb (used with object)
U.S. Politics. to impede (legislation) by irregular or obstructive tactics, especially by making long speeches.
1580-90; < Spanish filibustero < Middle French flibustier, variant of fribustier; see freebooter
Related forms
filibusterer, noun
filibusterism, noun
filibusterous, adjective
antifilibuster, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for filibuster
  • In he rushed, despatched a messenger for me, and began a single-handed filibuster.
  • The bill did not win enough votes to break a filibuster.
  • filibuster- and hold-happy legislators can prevent qualified appointees from taking their positions for months.
  • If filibuster reform is to be serious, such myths must be shattered, which won't be easy.
  • With the help of the filibuster, the opponents of health care reform came close to defeating it politically.
  • One party is using the filibuster much more than the other.
  • They'll obstruct through endless amendments, not a filibuster.
  • Using the filibuster to delay debate or block legislation has a long history.
  • They filibuster nominees who get voted through unanimously when the vote is finally held.
  • Instead, determining whether a filibuster is occurring in any specific case typically requires a degree of subjective judgment.
British Dictionary definitions for filibuster


the process or an instance of obstructing legislation by means of long speeches and other delaying tactics
Also called filibusterer. a legislator who engages in such obstruction
a buccaneer, freebooter, or irregular military adventurer, esp a revolutionary in a foreign country
to obstruct (legislation) with delaying tactics
(intransitive) to engage in unlawful and private military action
Derived Forms
filibusterer, noun
filibusterism, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Spanish filibustero, from French flibustier probably from Dutch vrijbuiter pirate, literally: one plundering freely; see freebooter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for filibuster

1580s, flibutor "pirate," probably ultimately from Dutch vrijbuiter "freebooter," a word which used of pirates in the West Indies in Spanish (filibustero) and French (flibustier) forms, either or both of which gave the word to American English (see freebooter).

Used 1850s and '60s of lawless adventurers from the U.S. who tried to overthrow Central American governments. The legislative sense is not in Bartlett (1859) and seems not to have been in use in U.S. legislative writing before 1865. Probably the extension in sense is because obstructionist legislators "pirated" debate or overthrew the usual order of authority. Not technically restricted to U.S. Senate, but that's where the strategy works best.


1853 in both the freebooting and the legislative senses, from filibuster (n.). Related: Filibustered; filibustering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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filibuster in Culture
filibuster [(fil-uh-bus-tuhr)]

A strategy employed in the United States Senate, whereby a minority can delay a vote on proposed legislation by making long speeches or introducing irrelevant issues. A successful filibuster can force withdrawal of a bill. Filibusters can be ended only by cloture.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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