bread and circuses

plural noun

Definition of bread and circuses

: a palliative offered especially to avert potential discontent

Examples of bread and circuses in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web 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 At its gilded core, the Super Bowl is an annual carnival of excess that makes the bread and circuses of Roman antiquity seem quaint in comparison. Kim Kelly, The New Republic, 6 Feb. 2020 Both of you, stop your bickering and give us the bread and circuses of being able to watch pro basketball and hockey, to distract us while the world goes up in flames and in hate. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, 15 Nov. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bread and circuses.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bread and circuses

1872, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bread and circuses

translation of Latin panis et circenses

Learn More About bread and circuses

Time Traveler for bread and circuses

Time Traveler

The first known use of bread and circuses was in 1872

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near bread and circuses

bread-and-butter plate

bread and circuses


See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for bread and circuses

Last Updated

17 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bread and circuses.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Oct. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!