- a circus having three adjacent rings in which performances take place simultaneously.
- something spectacular, tumultuous, entertaining, or full of confused action: Our family reunions are always three-ring circuses.
noun US and Canadian
- a circus with three rings in which separate performances are carried on simultaneously
- 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.