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Roman holiday

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noun
  1. a public spectacle or controversy marked by barbarism, vindictiveness, or scandal.
  2. pleasure or advantage gained from the discomfort or suffering of others.

Origin of Roman holiday

First recorded in 1885–90
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for roman holiday

Roman holiday

noun
  1. entertainment or pleasure that depends on the suffering of others

Word Origin

C19: from Byron's poem Childe Harold (IV, 141)
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

Word Origin and History for roman holiday

Roman holiday

n.

"occasion on which entertainment or profit is derived from injury or death," 1860, originally in reference to holidays for gladiatorial combat; the expression seems to be entirely traceable to an oft-quoted passage on a dying barbarian gladiator from the fourth canto (1818) of Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage":

But where his rude hut by the Danube lay
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother. He, their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday!
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper