filibuster

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English[edit]

Claude Rains and James Stewart in a scene from the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, a senator who launches a filibuster (sense 2) in the United States Senate.

Etymology[edit]

Borrowing from Spanish filibustero (pirate), from French flibustier, from Dutch vrijbuiter (freebooter), from vrij (free) + buit (booty) + -er (agent). The word has the same construction as, and is cognate to, English freebooter.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

filibuster (plural filibusters)

  1. A mercenary soldier; a freebooter; specifically, a mercenary who travelled illegally in an organized group from the United States to a country in Central America or the Spanish West Indies in the mid-19th century seeking economic and political benefits through armed force.
    • 1890, Lafcadio Hearn, Two Years in the French West Indies, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Bros., OCLC 48662727:
      These duties involved prodigious physical and mental exertion, in a climate deadly to Europeans. They also involved much voyaging in waters haunted by filibusters and buccaneers. But nothing appears to daunt Labat. As for the filibusters, he becomes their comrade and personal friend;—he even becomes their chaplain, and does not scruple to make excursions with them.
    • 2002, E. John Gesick, Jr., “Filibusters”, in Lee Stacy, editor, Mexico and the United States, volume 1 (Acapulco, Guererro – Film in Mexico), Tarrytown, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish, ISBN 978-0-7614-7402-9, page 307, column 1:
      Mexico's War of Independence (1810–1821) encouraged an increase in the activity of filibusters in northern Mexico, particularly Texas. Spain's concentration on repressing independence movements within Mexico created opportunities for filibusters to seize control of its northern frontier regions.
    • 2012, William H. Brown, “Central America, Filibusters”, in Thomas M. Leonard, editor, Encyclopedia of U.S.–Latin American Relations, volume 1 (A–E), Thousand Oaks, Calif.: CQ Press; London: SAGE Publications, ISBN 978-0-87289-762-5, pages 149, column 2 – 150, column 1:
      Filibusters were American citizens who used armed force to procure economic and political influence beyond the borders of the United States from 1848–1861. Their efforts were directed mainly southward toward Cuba, Mexico, and the Central American republics. These illegal excursions disrupted diplomatic relations of the United States within its own hemisphere by damaging relations with Latin American countries and the United Kingdom.
    • 2016, Andreas Beer, “The Nicaraguan Press and El Nicaraguense”, in A Transnational Analysis of Representations of the US Filibusters in Nicaragua, 1855–1857, New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-28352-4, ISBN 978-3-319-28351-7, pages 95–96:
      As they attempted to use the international press to their advantage, the filibusters were eager to counter any articles they perceived as misrepresenting their actions. [] [T]he filibusters took issue with what they called the "Boletinero de Costarica" and its outspoken condemnation of the filibuster presence in Nicaragua. [] Costa Rican periodicals were especially scorned by the filibusters for their constant rallying cries against the US usurpers.
  2. (politics, US) A tactic (such as giving long, often irrelevant speeches) employed to delay the proceedings of, or the making of a decision by, a legislative body, particularly the United States Senate.
    • 2010 April 22, Mimi Murray Digby Marziani; Diana Lee, “Statement for the Record, Brennan Center for Justice, New York, NY”, in Examining the Filibuster: Hearings before the Committee on Rules and Administration, United States Senate, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, Second Session, April 22, 2010, May 19, 2010, June 23, 2010, July 28, 2010, and September 22 and 29, 2010 (S. Hrg. 111-706), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, ISBN 978-0-16-087257-0, page 112:
      No longer do filibustering Senators take the floor and speak until they are physically unable to filibuster any longer. Now, a filibuster typically begins when a Senator or group of Senators signals their intent to filibuster – which can be done by a private conversation with the majority leader or by quietly placing a bill or nomination on hold. Given the modern Senate's scarce floor time, this threat is usually enough to table the disputed issue until the dissenting Senators cave or until there are definitely enough votes to invoke cloture.
    • 2010 October 14, “An own goal on gay rights”, in The Economist[1], archived from the original on 23 April 2016:
      Then, last month, before the survey was finished and for reasons still unclear, the Democrats abruptly tried to attach a repeal of the law to the defence appropriations bill, a stratagem the Republicans defeated in a filibuster.
  3. (politics, US) A member of a legislative body causing such an obstruction; a filibusterer.

Synonyms[edit]

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Translations[edit]

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Verb[edit]

filibuster (third-person singular simple present filibusters, present participle filibustering, simple past and past participle filibustered)

  1. To take part in a private military action in a foreign country.
    • 2012, William H. Brown, “Central America, Filibusters”, in Thomas M. Leonard, editor, Encyclopedia of U.S.–Latin American Relations, volume 1 (A–E), Thousand Oaks, Calif.: CQ Press; London: SAGE Publications, ISBN 978-0-87289-762-5, page 150, column 2:
      According to U.S. law, filibustering was a violation of the Neutrality Law of 1818, which prohibited the organization within the United States of any armed force that intended to attack a friendly foreign power. The American government attempted, through the enforcement of this law, to prevent its citizens from filibustering, mostly by preventing potential filibustering groups from organizing and collecting arms for future operations.
  2. (US, politics) To use obstructionist tactics in a legislative body.
    • 1919, William Roscoe Thayer, chapter 11, in Theodore Roosevelt: An Intimate Biography, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Company, OCLC 906072059:
      But as the case had dragged on interminably, and he believed, and the world believed, and the Canadians themselves knew, that they intended to filibuster and postpone as long as possible, he took the common-sense way to a settlement.
    • 1957, Special Subcommittee on Amendments to Rule XXII, Committee on Rules and Administration, United States Senate, Proposed Amendments to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, Relating to Cloture: Hearings before a Special Subcommittee on Rules and Administration, United States Senate, Eighty-fifth Congress, First Session, on S. Res. 17, S. Res. 19, S. Res. 21, S. Res. 28, S. Res. 29, S. Res. 30, S. Res. 32, S. Res. 171, Resolutions Proposing Amendments to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate. June 17, 24, 25, 28, July 2, 9, 16, 1957, Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, OCLC 4657728, page 305:
      1901—Senator Carter successfully filibustered a river and harbor bill because it failed to include certain additional appropriations.
    • 2010 April 22, Mimi Murray Digby Marziani; Diana Lee, “Statement for the Record, Brennan Center for Justice, New York, NY”, in Examining the Filibuster: Hearings before the Committee on Rules and Administration, United States Senate, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, Second Session, April 22, 2010, May 19, 2010, June 23, 2010, July 28, 2010, and September 22 and 29, 2010 (S. Hrg. 111-706), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, ISBN 978-0-16-087257-0, page 112:
      No longer do filibustering Senators take the floor and speak until they are physically unable to filibuster any longer. Now, a filibuster typically begins when a Senator or group of Senators signals their intent to filibuster – which can be done by a private conversation with the majority leader or by quietly placing a bill or nomination on hold. Given the modern Senate's scarce floor time, this threat is usually enough to table the disputed issue until the dissenting Senators cave or until there are definitely enough votes to invoke cloture.

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