magnum opus


mag·​num opus ˈmag-nəm-ˈō-pəs How to pronounce magnum opus (audio)
: a great work
especially : the greatest achievement of an artist or writer

Did you know?

You may recognize magnum (meaning "great") as a Latin word that shows up in altered forms in several English words, and perhaps you can also come up with a few words that are related to opus ("work"). Magnitude, magnanimous, opulent, and operate are some obvious relations of the two. Magnum opus, which entered English in the 18th century, retains the original Latin spelling and the literal meaning "great work." Although the term most often refers to literary, musical, or artistic productions, it has been used to describe many kinds of great works, including games, construction projects, and even surgical techniques.

Examples of magnum opus in a Sentence

His last novel was his magnum opus. this symphony is usually considered Beethoven's magnum opus
Recent Examples on the Web Her latest magnum opus came out of her own blind spots. Ted Loos, Robb Report, 26 Nov. 2023 From designing the album’s cover art to having the rapper sit in on his Louis Vuitton Fashion Show, Abloh rejuvenated Gunn’s creative juices and sparked his magnum opus. Carl Lamarre, Billboard, 30 Oct. 2023 Absent from the album’s tracklist, Nicks’ magnum opus remained a Fleetwood Mac rarity for two tumultuous decades marked by a constantly-changing band roster. Bailey Richards, Peoplemag, 2 Oct. 2023 The list that opens Ernaux’s magnum opus, The Years, recalls her earlier work, but at the same time makes a break. Tobi Haslett, Harper's Magazine, 18 Sep. 2023 In 1945, Schoenberg applied to the Guggenheim Foundation for a grant to finish this magnum opus. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2023 Aster’s three-hour magnum opus, a psychiatric session masquerading as a quirky A24 comedy-drama, follows Beau, a middle-age nobody living in a bleak one-bedroom apartment on a city street comically ravaged by crime. Vulture, 13 June 2023 Watch Now 31 Suspiria (1977) Dario Argento’s magnum opus is a symphony of witches, prog rock, and primary colors oozing with giallo influences. Deanna Janes, Harper's BAZAAR, 28 Aug. 2023 For critics who might have doubted whether a teenager could take on a magnum opus of such emotional complexity, this was their answer. Leena Kim, Town & Country, 30 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'magnum opus.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



First Known Use

1791, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of magnum opus was in 1791


Dictionary Entries Near magnum opus

Cite this Entry

“Magnum opus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

magnum opus

mag·​num opus ˌmag-nə-ˈmō-pəs How to pronounce magnum opus (audio)
: a great work and especially the greatest achievement of an artist or writer
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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