The Meaning of Filibuster: What It Is and How To Use It

What is a filibuster? How is it used in the Senate? This article will teach you what you need to know about filibusters.

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What Does the Word Filibuster Mean?

According to NPR, the word filibuster is used in the Senate and House of Representatives to delay action by talking. This can be used to delay issues like taking action on a bill. Currently, the Senate rule is that a filibuster can be stopped if there are 60 votes by senators to end the debate. This is called cloture by a supermajority. 

The rate of filibusters has increased greatly over time. In the early 70s, there were only about six filibusters per year. However, in the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions, there were 298 filibuster votes. In the past two years, that number had risen by almost one hundred percent.

There is currently a debate about whether to change the number of senators that are required to end a filibuster. How many senators do you think it should take to end a filibuster?

What Are Translations of the Word Filibuster?

There are many languages that also contain their own words for a filibuster, though it is most closely related to American government and politics. If you are discussing something like American government and politics with a person who does not speak English, or if you are learning a second language, referring to this list of translations for a filibuster from Word Sense can be very useful. 

How many of these translations of filibuster are you familiar with? Can you tell which ones sound like the word filibuster? These sorts of words that look and sound alike in different languages are called cognates.

  • Norwegian: fribytter‎ (masc.)
  • Finnish: palkkasoturi‎, rosvo‎
  • Russian: флибустье́р‎ (masc.), пира́т‎ (masc.), наёмник‎ (masc.) (mercenary)
  • Italian: filibustiere‎ (masc.)
  • Spanish: filibustero‎ (masc.)
  • Catalan: filibuster‎ (masc.)
  • Portuguese: flibusteiro‎ (masc.)
  • Esperanto: flibustro‎
  • German: Freibeuter‎ (masc.)
  • French: flibustier‎ (masc.)
  • Danish: fribytter‎
  • Greek: κουρσάρος‎ (masc.), πειρατής‎ (masc.)

What Is the Origin of the Filibuster?

The filibuster rose to popularity in the 19th century, when long-winded speeches began to be used to buy time. In 1917, the Senate passed the first filibuster rule, which was that a two-thirds majority was needed to end the filibuster. However, this was difficult, so in 1975, they reduced the requirement to three-fifths of the Senate, the 60 senator rule we have now.

Also, in the 70s, the Senate passed a rule that filibuster measures could be put on hold while the chamber discussed other bills — otherwise, all work was brought to a halt if they stopped to discuss a single bill for hours at a time. 

How Can the Word Filibuster Be Used in a Sentence?

The word filibuster is most often used in sentences that discuss American government or politics. You might hear this word on the news, in a government class, or in discussions about Washington. If you are trying to use this word in a sentence, it is important to understand its meaning and connotations.

Below are a few examples of ways in which the word filibuster can be used in a sentence. Study these examples carefully, and then see if you can invent your own example sentences using the word filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is determined to keep the filibuster rule in place so that Senate Republicans stay on top. The GOP hopes to gain control of all branches of government, from Supreme Court nominees to Trump in the White House.

President Joe Biden saw numerous filibusters when he was in the United States Senate.

The unlimited debate filibustered on and on in Washington. Americans were glued to the news stations; it was the most exciting thing to happen in American politics in a long time and would determine future civil rights legislation and voting rights legislation.

The chambers of Congress could not reach the 60-vote threshold on Tuesday, and thus the filibuster continued in the Capitol

President Woodrow Wilson and President Barack Obama have different opinions on the filibuster, one as a Jim Crow relic and one from the days of the World War.

Lawmakers are concerned about the legislation surrounding the confirmation of judicial nominees/judicial nominations as well as the cloture rule regarding filibusters and the simple majority vote.

Obstructive actions were taken by Senate action to the voting rights bill via a filibuster.

What Are Synonyms of the Word Filibuster?

The word filibuster has close associations with the American government, so it is not always appropriate to use in every situation. If you are in a conversation that is not centered around American politics but are trying to use a word that refers to a person droning on to gain time, you can use a synonym for the word filibuster. 

Learning synonyms can also be useful if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself or if you’re looking to spice up your vocabulary.

Reference the below list of synonyms from Power Thesaurus to get started:

  • buccaneer
  • cooling-off period
  • corsair
  • dawdle
  • delay
  • delaying tactics
  • filibusterer
  • filibustering
  • freebooter
  • gain time
  • hindrance
  • interference
  • lag
  • linger
  • obstruct
  • obstruction
  • obstructionist
  • opposition
  • picaroon
  • pirate
  • play for time
  • postponement
  • privateer
  • procrastinate
  • procrastination
  • rover
  • sea robber
  • sea rover
  • sea thief
  • stall
  • stonewall
  • stonewalling
  • talkathon
  • tarry
  • temporize
  • use delaying tactics
  • waste time


Overall, the word filibuster is used in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate to refer to the action of delaying some action by talking. This could be a bill or another sort of issue. The current Senate rule for ending a filibuster is that 60 of the senators must vote to end the debate. 


  1. filibuster: meaning, origin, translation | WordSense Dictionary 
  2. Filibuster synonyms – 403 Words and Phrases for Filibuster | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Senate Democrats plan a vote to change the filibuster. So what is it? | NPR