noun, often attributive
cir·​cus | \ ˈsər-kəs How to pronounce circus (audio) \

Definition of circus

1a : a large arena enclosed by tiers of seats on three or all four sides and used especially for sports or spectacles (such as athletic contests, exhibitions of horsemanship, or in ancient times chariot racing)
b : a public spectacle
2a : an arena often covered by a tent and used for variety shows usually including feats of physical skill, wild animal acts, and performances by clowns
b : a circus performance
c : the physical plant, livestock, and personnel of such a circus
d : something suggestive of a circus (as in frenzied activity, sensationalism, theatricality, or razzle-dazzle) a media circus
3a obsolete : circle, ring
b British : a usually circular area at an intersection of streets

Other Words from circus

circusy \ ˈsər-​kə-​sē How to pronounce circus (audio) \ adjective

Examples of circus in a Sentence

He worked for a small circus. We're going to the circus.
Recent Examples on the Web The Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) promotes entertainment and community spirit throughout the year and hosts an annual June festival that includes concerts, art exhibitions, dance, circus, and comedy. Patricia Doherty, Travel + Leisure, 10 May 2022 World-class circus artists abound elsewhere, including the Cirque du Soleil veteran Marjorie Nantel, a superb aerialist whose contortions here can be seen up close. Chris Jones,, 28 Feb. 2022 Cirque must also grapple with out-of-shape circus artists, many of whom have been forced to pursue other ways to make a living. New York Times, 9 May 2021 His son Prince, 10, is part of the next generation of circus artists. Marcy De Luna, Chron, 25 Nov. 2020 His earliest interviews were filled with colorful lies about working in the circus and riding the rails across the country. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, 12 Mar. 2022 Other times, Arrington was driving his own little circus of Japanese arcade machines to conventions around the country, for nostalgic weebs and weirdos to beep and bop on. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 14 Jan. 2022 As a circus performer, she is trained in various skills and apparatuses, including trapeze, aerial straps and acrobatic flips and lifts with a partner. Laura Latzko, The Arizona Republic, 11 Jan. 2022 Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940 includes 81 Oregon interviews of gold miners, teachers, even a circus performer. oregonlive, 11 June 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of circus

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for circus

Middle English, from Latin, circle, circus — more at circle

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Time Traveler for circus

Time Traveler

The first known use of circus was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near circus

circumzenithal arc


circus catch

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Statistics for circus

Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Circus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for circus


cir·​cus | \ ˈsər-kəs How to pronounce circus (audio) \

Kids Definition of circus

: a traveling show that often takes place under a tent and that usually includes acts performed by acrobats, clowns, and trained animals

More from Merriam-Webster on circus

Nglish: Translation of circus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of circus for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about circus


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