a large public entertainment, typically presented in one or more very large tents or in an outdoor or indoor arena, featuring exhibitions of pageantry, feats of skill and daring, performing animals, etc., interspersed throughout with the slapstick antics of clowns.: Compare big top.
a troupe of performers, especially a traveling troupe, that presents such entertainments, together with officials, other employees, and the company's performing animals, traveling wagons, tents, cages, and equipment.
anything resembling such public entertainments, as an event or activity that is wildly active, disordered, sensational, etc.: That whole trial was a circus.
a circular arena surrounded by tiers of seats, in which public entertainments are held; arena.
(in ancient Rome)
a large, usually oblong or oval, roofless enclosure, surrounded by tiers of seats rising one above another, for chariot races, public games, etc.
an entertainment given in this Roman arena, as a chariot race or public game: The Caesars appeased the public with bread and circuses.
anything resembling the Roman circus, or arena, as a natural amphitheater or a circular range of houses.
British. an open circle, square, or plaza where several streets converge: Piccadilly Circus.
Obsolete. a circlet or ring.
- cir·cus·y, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use circus in a sentence
Gaga personalized the anthem but still sang it simply, without a circus of musical tricks.
Walsh first covered the country for the Guardian and later for the New York Times, reporting on what he describes as its “multi-ringed circus of violence.”Revisiting Pakistan’s tangle of contradictions and violence | Bilal Qureshi | December 11, 2020 | Washington Post
Next, as some attacked Lewis and Christiansen for undemocratic art removal, others lauded them for taking decisive action to shut down a circus.
Almost literally a sideshow, as in a circus, where the center ring is occupied by the main event and the rings off to the side are populated by the lesser acts.Vice presidential debate: Highlights and fact-checks | Colby Itkowitz, Anne Gearan, Matt Viser, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner | October 8, 2020 | Washington Post
By 2017, the effort to create an experimental underwater vortex circus had paid off with proof of what happens to helicity in the real world.An Unexpected Twist Lights Up the Secrets of Turbulence | David H. Freedman | September 3, 2020 | Quanta Magazine
It helps that the circus is like a family—only one that can choose its members.
The circus is now performing 18 shows around the world, with eight performances in Las Vegas alone each night.
In 1870, the very Germanically-named August Ruengling fixed a harness for a circus rider and obtained free passes for his family.
circus parades often became as large a sight as the performance itself; one Barnum and Bailey parade stretched for three miles.
The modern era of the circus is inseparable from several names you may have encountered.
There were five men and three women in the circus troupe, and among the four nuns was the grave reverend mother of a convent.The Red Year | Louis Tracy
The comical little pig and the merry monkey hid under the bush and ate acorns as they watched the circus procession go past.Squinty the Comical Pig | Richard Barnum
She wouldn't hear tell o' my working half the day, though I could well's not, 'cause the circus don't take in till two o'clock.Dorothy at Skyrie | Evelyn Raymond
Home it is where we'll eat that nice lunch o' Mrs. Calvert's, 'cause I haven't got a cent left to buy them circus tickets.Dorothy at Skyrie | Evelyn Raymond
His white tail curves beautifully like the plumes on the hats of the circus ladies.Seven O'Clock Stories | Robert Gordon Anderson
British Dictionary definitions for circus
a travelling company of entertainers such as acrobats, clowns, trapeze artistes, and trained animals
a public performance given by such a company
an oval or circular arena, usually tented and surrounded by tiers of seats, in which such a performance is held
a travelling group of professional sportsmen: a cricket circus
(in ancient Rome)
an open-air stadium, usually oval or oblong, for chariot races or public games
the games themselves
an open place, usually circular, in a town, where several streets converge
(capital when part of a name): Piccadilly Circus
informal noisy or rowdy behaviour
informal a person or group of people whose behaviour is wild, disorganized, or (esp unintentionally) comic
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
Other Idioms and Phrases with circus
see three-ring circus.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.