Definition of circus in English:


Line breaks: cir¦cus
Pronunciation: /ˈsəːkəs

noun (plural circuses)

1A travelling company of acrobats, clowns, and other entertainers which gives performances, typically in a large tent, in a series of different places: I was thrilled by the annual visits of the circus [as modifier]: a circus elephant
More example sentences
  • It's all quite a long way removed from the life he and his father once knew, as entertainers in a travelling circus.
  • He heard the complaints that he sometimes came across as too dour and awkward and while that rankled, he always insisted he was there to manage a football team not entertain like a circus clown.
  • I just can't get enough of shows performed in circus tents.
1.1 informal A large group of people travelling together on the circuit of a particular high-profile activity: the Formula One grand prix circus
More example sentences
  • More attractions will be opening up as the NFL circus travels around the country.
  • The traveling circus known as pro tennis arrived on the outskirts of London on June 23.
  • So the F1 circus has now moved across the Atlantic to the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Canada.
1.2 informal A public scene of frenetic, noisy, or confused activity: a media circus
More example sentences
  • What was the media circus like at the scene in Colorado?
  • But the Congressman's lawyer says this whole thing has become a media circus and a tabloid frenzy.
  • Spare us the circus of long public trials, say the letters to the editor.
2(In ancient Rome) a rounded or oval arena lined with tiers of seats, used for equestrian and other sports and games: [in names]: the Circus Maximus
More example sentences
  • By the 4th century A.D., nearly 177 days per year were devoted to the Games, held at the circus.
  • The circle is the defining motif of the Frénouse, a shape that haunted Tatin, from his early obsession with the enclosed ring of the circus, to his adolescent observation of planets.
3 [in place names] British A rounded open space in a town or city where several streets converge: Piccadilly Circus
More example sentences
  • Tomorrow sees the Town Hall in Regent Circus host the Quiz.
  • The new civic space - the Circus - will provide the focal point and is described by developers as ‘an oasis of calm in the city centre’.
  • The work will also affect Regent Circus, Clarence Street, Princes Street and Victoria Road.


late Middle English (with reference to the arena of Roman antiquity): from Latin, 'ring or circus'. The sense 'travelling company of performers' dates from the late 18th century.

Definition of circus in: