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What does it mean to table something?

Updated February 21, 2017

“Tabling” an item is a term most often applied to an issue or agenda item within the context of a formal meeting. The term has different meanings in different English-speaking countries, with a crucial difference between U. S. and British usages. .(reference 1)

British Usage

To table an issue means that the issue is “placed on the table” for consideration or discussion.

U.S. Usage

To table an issue means that discussion of the issue is postponed, possibly indefinitely.

Parliamentary Procedure

Under “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the recognised compendium of parliamentary procedure, a motion to “lay on the table” asks the body to set aside an issue until after a different, more pressing, issue has been addressed. The first issue remains on the body's docket until taken up again and resolved.

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About the Author

Kelvin O'Donahue has been writing since 1979, with work published in the "Arizona Geological Society Digest" and "Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists," as well as online. O'Donahue holds a Master of Science in geology from the University of Arizona, and has worked in the oil industry since 1982.