three-ring circus

three-ring circus


  1. a circus having three adjacent rings in which performances take place simultaneously.
  2. something spectacular, tumultuous, entertaining, or full of confused action: Our family reunions are always three-ring circuses.

noun US and Canadian

  1. a circus with three rings in which separate performances are carried on simultaneously
  2. a situation of confusion, characterized by a bewildering variety of events or activities

A situation of complete confusion, as in It was a three-ring circus, with the baby crying, the dog barking, both telephones ringing, and someone at the front door. This term alludes to a circus where three rings or arenas are featuring performances simultaneously. Perhaps invented by show business impresario P.T. Barnum, the term was extended to other confused situations by about 1900.

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