Definition of circus in US English:

circus

noun

  • 1A traveling company of acrobats, clowns, and other entertainers which gives performances, typically in a large tent, in a series of different places.

    as modifier ‘a circus elephant’
    • ‘As usual, a circus troupe has pitched its tent in the Festival City in view of the vacation.’
    • ‘The travelling circus goes to Barcelona in Spain for the fifth round of the championship.’
    • ‘We're a circus troupe, aren't we?’
    • ‘They probably give thanks every day that they haven't been carted off to perform in some travelling circus and can just graze away in this beautifully quiet corner of the world.’
    • ‘You are distracted by acrobats and circus performers and watch little chubby cheeked children clapping their hands with sheer joy.’
    • ‘Often, I feel a bit like a high-wire circus performer working without a net.’
    • ‘It's all quite a long way removed from the life he and his father once knew, as entertainers in a travelling circus.’
    • ‘The three-ring circus is made up of around 180 performers and 80 animals.’
    • ‘Perhaps the most excitement was caused by the circus coming to town, however.’
    • ‘Time had eroded all things: the circus tents, the faces of young performers, the swiftness of reactions and the size of audiences.’
    • ‘A jazz trio will play and there will be a magician and circus performer.’
    • ‘I just can't get enough of shows performed in circus tents.’
    • ‘Later he was a road labourer and a wrestler in travelling circuses.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She has returned to the ring, though - supporting the circus clown's act.’
    • ‘Bizarrely, traveling circuses are exempt from the restriction.’
    • ‘Maybe he and his niece could join a traveling circus to get by.’
    • ‘But, unlike the old circus shows with their clowns and candyfloss, this performance is governed by a sophisticated theatrical sensibility.’
    • ‘A travelling circus has been destroyed by last weekend's gusty weather just days after its opening night in Swindon.’
    • ‘The circus, the nomadic tent show of breathtaking performances, is on.’
    1. 1.1informal A large group of people travelling together on the circuit of a particular high-profile activity.
      ‘the Formula One circus’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The media was pleased to receive the calendar for next year's F1 circus nice and early.’
      • ‘So it is back to Italy for the F1 circus this weekend.’
      • ‘More attractions will be opening up as the NFL circus travels around the country.’
    2. 1.2informal A public scene of frenetic and noisily intrusive activity.
      ‘a media circus’
      • ‘It would be ridiculous to expect such a circus to settle major public issues.’
      • ‘But the Congressman's lawyer says this whole thing has become a media circus and a tabloid frenzy.’
      • ‘I'll never forget the media circus that followed.’
      • ‘Needless to say (but I'll say it all the same), the ensuing trial was a media circus.’
      • ‘I am angered and appalled at the way the news media has made a circus of their portrayal of this case.’
      • ‘Surely they're not sick of the media circus already?’
      • ‘His family had initially claimed it was not possible to hold a ceremony due to the media circus following their every movement.’
      • ‘The whole circus happening around my vehicle puts a smile on my face.’
      • ‘I wrote him a letter, and I apologized for the media circus, because I hadn't intended it.’
      • ‘What was the media circus like at the scene in Colorado?’
      • ‘Here he is trying to make his way through the media circus.’
      • ‘While the circus surrounding free agents is going on, the draft process continues at full speed.’
      • ‘With just 270 bedrooms on site, the media circus of several thousand will have to be housed as much as 50 miles away.’
      • ‘Spare us the circus of long public trials, say the letters to the editor.’
      • ‘So it's become a three-ring circus in terms of lawsuits.’
      • ‘Members of the media circus are frustrated already.’
      • ‘Let's boycott the Big Top when this media circus comes to town.’
      • ‘It just shows up the frayed edges and leaves the poor unfortunate drained and often humiliated by the experience as the media circus moves on to its next victim.’
      • ‘But she was not willing to live under this media circus tent for the sake of a job.’
      • ‘Sheltered from reality in the public circus, these people seriously believed that their complicated jargon would be understood by the average shmuck on the street.’
  • 2(in ancient Rome) a rounded or oblong arena lined with tiers of seats, used for equestrian and other sports and games.

    • ‘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.’
  • 3British (in place names) a rounded open space in a city where several streets converge.

    ‘Piccadilly Circus’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘Tomorrow sees the Town Hall in Regent Circus host the Quiz.’
    • ‘He said: ‘The new entrance on Queen's Circus will also improve access from the station to Battersea Park, Prince of Wales Drive, the Marco Polo building and Chelsea Bridge Wharf.’’
    • ‘The work will also affect Regent Circus, Clarence Street, Princes Street and Victoria Road.’
    • ‘The new department store will front on to St Botolph's Circus.’

Origin

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

Pronunciation

circus

/ˈsərkəs//ˈsərkəs/