circus

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

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Other Words from circus

circusy \ ˈsər-​kə-​sē How to pronounce circusy (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

Some members also worry hearings would devolve into a political circus. Jon Kamp, WSJ, "Virginia’s Black Caucus Gains Strength Amid Political Turmoil," 15 Feb. 2019 The highest court in the land has turned into a circus and, closer to home, my inbox has become a battleground. Nicole Brodeur, The Seattle Times, "88 angry emails and counting: Kavanaugh hearings deepen rift between men and women," 5 Oct. 2018 Representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter declined Congress’ invitation to appear at that hearing, which quickly devolved into a circus. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Congress pressures tech companies to ban more accounts," 17 July 2018 Reporters poured into Rajneeshpuram from all over the world, turning the scene into a media circus. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "Bhagwan’s Final Year," 12 Apr. 2018 That’s the nub of this entire case that’s turned into a media circus. Maria Cramer, BostonGlobe.com, "Former high-ranking State Police officials ask judge to throw out case against them," 15 Mar. 2018 One likes to think the artist would have enjoyed the camera-phone circus. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "The Young Flocked to the Whitney Art Party for a Night of Warhol," 30 Jan. 2019 But the fashion house also has a long-history with the circus. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Dior Had Live Acrobats Perform on Its Couture Runway," 22 Jan. 2019 As the models came promenading out, every circus act was represented, from unitard-wearing strongman to lion tamer with a plush stuffed animal draped around his neck. Booth Moore, The Hollywood Reporter, "Jeremy Scott Plays Ringmaster at Circus-Themed Moschino Runway Show in L.A.," 11 June 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for circus

Last Updated

21 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for circus

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

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More Definitions for circus

circus

noun

English Language Learners Definition of circus

: a traveling show that is often performed in a tent and that typically includes trained animals, clowns, acrobats, etc.
informal : a situation or event that is very busy, lively, and confusing and that attracts a lot of attention
British : a circular area where several streets meet

circus

noun
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

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