bread and circuses

plural noun

: a palliative offered especially to avert potential discontent

Examples of bread and circuses in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web So part of this is a kind of bread and circuses campaign, right? The Politics Of Everything, The New Republic, 27 Sep. 2023 But Close paints an evocative portrait of the varied and ambiguous roles sports can play in an autocracy, where a regime’s reliance on bread and circuses may eventually wear thin in the absence of genuine progress. Lisa Anderson, Foreign Affairs, 11 Aug. 2020 The Romans are famous for offering bread and circuses to their underprivileged citizens. Serenity Gibbons, Forbes, 2 Aug. 2022 Who can resist the tempting spread of digital bread and circuses, birds and cake? Kc Cole, Wired, 22 Dec. 2021 De Blasio’s music-for-the-masses project comes terribly close to other progressive notions for making American life more socialist; urging people to think of themselves as masses is simple bread and circuses. Armond White, National Review, 20 Aug. 2021 The turmoil of the past year will fade into memory as the bread and circuses of ordinary life return to divert us. Jeff Stanard, National Review, 27 July 2021 In the Roman tradition of bread and circuses, sports were expected to placate the troubled population. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 Mar. 2021 Democrats are betting this round of bread and circuses will win them the 2022 midterms. Karl Rove, WSJ, 10 Mar. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bread and circuses.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


translation of Latin panis et circenses

First Known Use

1872, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bread and circuses was in 1872

Dictionary Entries Near bread and circuses

Cite this Entry

“Bread and circuses.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

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