Does "floor" mean right to speak, time to speak?

I looked at the definition of floor:

The right to address an assembly, as granted under parliamentary procedure.

This seemed to fit what I saw in certain legal texts. I am wondering if it can be used to mean "time during which a person is allowed to talk" and not just "the right to do so". Also, I have been wondering if assembly also included G20 meetings, or a diplomatic meetings.

I am not sure if I understand how to use the word correctly. Here's an example I thought out:

The representative of Italy monopolized the floor and tried to talk for 2 hours, which forced the representative of the U.S. to protest.

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    Think of "having the floor" like a baton that can pass from person to person. Only one person can "have the floor" at a time. Only the specific rules of the organization determine how the floor is passed from person to person. For example, once recognized, they may be allowed to continue indefinitely until they yield (such as in the US Senate). Or there may be time limits. You may be able to pass from member to member, or only from member to chair and chair to member. etc Jun 2, 2019 at 6:54

2 Answers 2


I think that if someone has the right to address an assembly, the time to do so comes along with it. The person exercises the right by taking the time to deliver their address. So yes, it's assumed that the 'floor' includes the time.

The word 'assembly' is a very general term, denoting any kind of gathering. When I was in elementary school an 'assembly' was when the whole school gathered in the auditorium. So it could very easily refer to G20 meetings or diplomatic meetings.

Your example sentence is immediately understandable and using 'floor' this way doesn't sound out of place to this native speaker's ear, so I would say that your thinking is sound.


"Having the floor" indicates that someone has been allowed to make a speech before an assembly. As the definition says, this this is governed by the Rules of Order (or various other names for the same thing) which may limit the length of the speech.

Ben Jackson's comment is right on target. Only one person can have the "floor" at a time. In order for someone else to speak, the person who has it must yield the floor to someone else, either voluntarily or when ordered to do so by the leader of the assembly.

Again, the rules from this will vary between different assemblies: how much time someone may take on the floor, who the floor can be yielded to, whether the other members should stay silent when someone has the floor, who can order someone to yield the floor, and so on.

For example, in the US Senate, a senator may have the floor for an unlimited amount of time. This allows for a legislative tactic called the filibuster where one senator can block legislation by continually talking. Rather than waste time on useless dialogue, the Senate leader may choose to instead deal with less controversial legislation, or kill the legislation entirely.

A filibuster can be stopped by something called cloture, which (more or less) requires a two-thirds majority to pass. While on a filibuster, a senator must remain standing and must talk more or less continually, although they may temporarily yield the floor for "questions" (which might go on for some time, to allow the filibustering senator some rest). A senator also may not leave the Senate itself, which historically has led to some creative solutions with regard to things like bathroom breaks.

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