three-ring circus [ t̸hrē] ′riŋ ′
Three ring circus is a show with three performances going on all at once.
An example of a three ring circus is a performance put on by Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey.
Three ring circus is a situation of extreme chaos or confusion, or a situation that is out of control.
An example of a three ring circus is when 20 dinner guests all show up unexpectedly on the wrong night at the same time your roof begins to leak and your dog steals your dinner.
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a circus having three rings for simultaneous performances any situation or event hilariously or confusingly packed with action Webster's New World College Dictionary Copyright © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
noun A circus having simultaneous performances in three separate rings. Informal A situation characterized by confusing, engrossing, or amusing activity. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. three-ring circus - Phrases/Idioms
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® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.