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three-ring circus

[three-ring] /ˈθriˌrɪŋ/
noun
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.
Also, three-ringed circus.
Origin
1880-1885
1880-85, Americanism
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for three-ring circus
  • Operating a banana plantation is as complicated as a three-ring circus or an army in the field.
  • Teachers are aware that sometimes they must conduct a three-ring circus.
  • It was evident early on that this would be a three-ring circus, our attention being pulled in many directions.
  • He sees his house as a combination three-ring circus and zoo.
  • There will be but one other parade during the nine days' stay of the three-ring circus that may be seen after noon or evening.
  • There was more going on yesterday than attractions at a three-ring circus.
British Dictionary definitions for three-ring circus

three-ring circus

noun (US & 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
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Idioms and Phrases with three-ring circus

three-ring circus

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.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Difficulty index for three-ring circus

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for three

8
7
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