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This came up in an email discussion - we are arguing about the merits and demerits of a certain approach, and I mentioned what I thought was a drawback to a scheme. To that, my colleague replied : "Okay, we can table this, but I just want to clarify something..." after which he went on to elucidate his views.... Does that mean that the discussion is closed on this ? If so, did he mean to say "I agree to what you say, but I wasn't totally wrong either" or something similar, or is it the reverse ?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

To table something means to postpone discussion on something. It might mean to postpone it indefinitely, but usually it just means that the discussion should be resumed at a later date.


Etymonline notes:

table (v.) in parliamentary sense, 1718, originally "to lay on the (speaker's) table for discussion," from table (n.). But in U.S. political jargon it has the sense of "to postpone indefinitely" (1866). Related: Tabled; tabling.

That may be true for political jargon, but in every business meeting I've ever been involved with, to "table" something usually means the issue wasn't going to go away but that we were agreeing not to talk about it during the current meeting.

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It's important to note that in the UK (and I suspect across the Commonwealth), to table something actually means the opposite of what it does in the US (i.e. in the UK, it means "to present for discussion") –  Dusty Mar 14 '11 at 14:32
To add to Dusty's interpretation: whilst to table means to present, the verb to shelve means to postpone (or possibly cancel) the project/dicussion. –  Andy F Mar 14 '11 at 14:52
@Dusty is right. In Commonwealth English, to table means to present/submit etc –  knight17 Sep 5 '11 at 15:56

It depends who is saying it. Americans mean "let's postpone discussing it". Other English speaking people mean "let's begin discussing it".

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You really need some sort of authority for a sweeping statement like that: but +1 for concision. –  TimLymington Dec 1 '11 at 13:54

Colloquially, one can table a suggestion for a group to decide on.

(From the UK).

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In giving an answer relating to this word, you must say which side of the Atlantic you are, for the reason that Dusty mentioned. –  Colin Fine Mar 14 '11 at 17:53

US meaning - agreement to postpone any or any further discussion of that issue; UK meaning - to put it to vote, or briefly express your opinion after which a decision will be made.

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Always cite your sources. The meanings you mention must have obviously been taken from a dictionary or similar source. –  Kris Nov 7 '13 at 4:50

According to http://www.robertsrules.com/faq.html#12 (Roberts Rules of Order):

The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed. In ordinary societies it is rarely needed, and hence seldom in order. [RONR (11th ed.), pp. 209-18; see also p. 127 of RONRIB.]

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No, to table something (in the U.S.) means to hold it off until a later date. Example:

Let's table this until Friday's meeting.

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A link to a dictionary reference might be helpful here. –  Jimi Oke Jan 22 at 22:29

To "Table Something" means to put it out in front of everyone and discuss it. Imagine Thanksgiving Dinner. When the bird is on put on the table, everyone comes and sits to eat the bird. They don't shelve it, which would mean to put it away and pull it back out later. In a meeting, to Table it means to discuss it and make a decision on it for all to have their input on it.

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