bread and circuses


noun

something, as extravagant entertainment, offered as an expedient means of pacifying discontent or diverting attention from a source of grievance.

Nearby words

  1. breach of promise,
  2. breach of the peace,
  3. breach of trust,
  4. bread,
  5. bread and butter,
  6. bread and honey,
  7. bread basket,
  8. bread flour,
  9. bread knife,
  10. bread line

Origin of bread and circuses

1910–15; translation of Latin pānis et circēnsēs; from a remark by the Roman satirist Juvenal on the limited desires of the Roman populace

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


Culture definitions for bread and circuses

bread and circuses

A phrase used by a Roman writer to deplore the declining heroism of Romans after the Roman Republic ceased to exist and the Roman Empire began: “Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.” The government kept the Roman populace happy by distributing free food and staging huge spectacles. (See Colosseum.)

Note

“Bread and circuses” has become a convenient general term for government policies that seek short-term solutions to public unrest.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.