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The cirque (sense 1) of Upper Thornton Lake in the North Cascades National Park in Washington, USA

Borrowed from French cirque (circular arena; cirque), from Latin circus (circle, ring), from Ancient Greek κίρκος (kírkos, circle, ring; racecourse, circus), possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *(s)ker- (to bend; to turn).[1]



cirque (plural cirques)

  1. (geology) A curved depression in a mountainside with steep walls, forming the end of a valley.
  2. (dated or literary) Something in the shape of a circle or ring, such as a Roman circus.
    • 1722, Laurence Echard, “From the Beginning of the First General Persecution of the Church, to the Destruction of Jerusalem, and the Dissolution of the Jewish Oeconomy”, in A General Ecclesiastical History from the Nativity of Our Blessed Saviour to the First Establishment of Christianity by Human Laws, under the Emperor Constantine the Great. [], volume I, 6th edition, London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 507904658, book II (From the Ascension of Our Blessed Saviour, to the Death of St. John, the Last Surviving Apostle), page 347:
      Nero exhibited theſe Spectacles in his own Gardens, impiouſly joining to them the Diverſions of the Cirque, and appearing himſelf publicly in the Habit of a Charioteer, ſitting in his Chariot; which yet the People entertain'd more with Pity than Pleaſure, knowing that they were not done for the publick Benefit, but meerly to gratifie his own private Rage and Malice. Thus barbarouſly were the Chriſtians treated at Rome; []
    • 1846, E[dward] Duke, “Stonehenge the Conjoint Temple of Saturn and the Sun”, in The Druidical Temples of the County of Wilts, London: John Russell Smith, 4, Old Compton Street, Soho Square; Salisbury, Wiltshire: W. B. Brodie and Co., OCLC 457310214, pages 153–154:
      Saturn has supplied to the Greeks and Romans the source of a beautiful personification; they have represented him as Time, [] thus with his scythe is he considered to cut down in endless succession every ripened race of man; and as the serpent is annually renewed by the cast of its skin, so is every falling race of man held to be renewed by a young and succeeding progeny; from hence arose the fiction, that Saturn devoured his own children, and hence also is the continuous cirque of imposts at Stonehenge an apt representation of this well imagined emblem.
    • 1899, O[badiah] C[yrus] Auringer; J[eanie] Oliver Smith, “The Temptation”, in The Christ: A Poetical Study of His Life from Advent to Ascension, New York, N.Y.; London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, the Knickerbocker Press, OCLC 13465562, page 36:
      [T]here our camp / Lay pitched that day beneath the sun's wide glare, / Amid the omnipresent desert wastes, / And few men stirred abroad. [] [T]he tents / Sagged lifeless all around their dusky cirque, / Whose every rope shone burnished in the glare, / And every tent-pin.




  1. ^ Calvert Watkins, editor (2000), “(s)ker-3”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, 2nd edition, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Company, →ISBN, sense 9, page 78; Kárlos Kūriákī [Carlos Quiles] (2007) A Grammar of Modern Indo-European: Language and Culture, Writing System and Phenomenology, Morphology, Syntax, Badajoz, Spain: Asociación Cultural DŃGHŪ, →ISBN, paragraph 3, page 398.

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Borrowed from Latin circus.


  • IPA(key): /siʁk/
  • (file)


cirque m (plural cirques)

  1. circus
  2. (geology) cirque
  3. (historical) a circular arena, such as in the ancient Roman Empire
  4. (colloquial) a mess, a disorder
    C'est quoi ce cirque !

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