a. A public entertainment consisting typically of a variety of performances by acrobats, clowns, and often trained animals.
b. A traveling company that performs such entertainments.
c. A circular arena, surrounded by tiers of seats and often covered by a tent, in which such shows are performed.
2. A roofless oval enclosure surrounded by tiers of seats that was used in antiquity for public spectacles.
3. Chiefly British An open circular place where several streets intersect.
4. Informal Something suggestive of a circus, as in frenetic activity or noisy disorder: "I was amazed at the amount of hubbub in the lobby ... it was a circus. The check-in area brought to mind a mustering station on a foundering cruise ship" (Bill Bryson).
[Middle English, round arena, from Latin, circus, circle; see CIRCLE.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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