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.

Origin of filibuster

1580–90; < Spanish filibustero < Middle French flibustier, variant of fribustier; see freebooter
Related formsfil·i·bus·ter·er, nounfil·i·bus·ter·ism, nounfil·i·bus·ter·ous, adjectivean·ti·fil·i·bus·ter, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for filibuster

Contemporary Examples of filibuster

Historical Examples of filibuster

  • And now this other filibuster has bought you, and you belong to him.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

  • Had he failed, he would have been stigmatized as a filibuster.

    Aztec Land

    Maturin M. Ballou

  • Had it eventuated in failure, its leader would have been pronounced a pirate and filibuster.

    Aztec Land

    Maturin M. Ballou

  • And are there still gobemouches in England who believe in the Filibuster?

    Tony Butler

    Charles James Lever

  • It may come from a rival—from the buccaneer, the filibuster, or the cannibal.

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
(intr) to engage in unlawful and private military action
Derived Formsfilibusterer, nounfilibusterism, noun

Word Origin for filibuster

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

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

filibuster in Culture



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 New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.