One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Bread and circuses or (more generally) food and entertainment, regarded as typically satisfying the desires of the mass of the people; hence used allusively of anything which pleases and pacifies the people, thus helping a government to further its political ends.
Late 18th century; earliest use found in Paul Henry Maty (1744–1787), librarian. From classical Latin pānem et circensēs bread and circus games (Juvenal Satires 10. 81) from pānem, accusative of pānis bread + et + circēnsēs, accusative of circēnsēs games held by the aediles or the Emperor, use as noun (short for ludī circēnsēs) of masculine plural of circēnsis of or belonging to the circus from circus + -ēnsis.
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