- the largest or main tent of a circus.
- a circus.
Origin of big top
An Americanism dating back to 1890–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
- the main tent of a circus
- the circus itself
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Idioms and Phrases with big top
The main tent of a circus, as in The high-wire act is almost always in the big top. [c. 1840]
Underworld slang for a maximum-security prison, as in He was sentenced to ten years in the big top. [1950s]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.