The term comes from the Latin word circus – the Roman equivalent of the Greek word kirkos, which means "circle", "ring".

Circuses had one rounded end and resemble the Ancient Greek hippodrome. The size of these facilities were much larger than those of the stadiums.

In the middle of the track there was a low wall called spina. It divided the track into two fields for the players. Circuses were primarily designed for games and chariot races. On the opposite side of the curved part (sfendona) was the grand entrance.

Circuses were intended mainly for games and chariot races. The best known circus is the Circus Maximus in Rome.