magnum opus

mag·​num opus | \ˈmag-nəm-ˈō-pəs \

Definition of magnum opus 

: a great work especially : the greatest achievement of an artist or writer

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Did You Know?

You probably recognize magnum ("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 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 late 18th century, retains the original Latin spelling and the literal meaning "great work." Although the term most often refers to literary productions, it has been used to describe many kinds of great works, including paintings, movies, 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

Head out on the I-5 and drop a digital needle on Michael Finnissy’s 11-part magnum opus. Dan Neil, WSJ, "6 Albums Ideal to Listen to on American Road Trips," 26 Oct. 2018 And everything is tested to make sure your magnum opus doesn't come apart at the seams. Chelsea Peng, Marie Claire, "Meet the Legos of Fine Jewelry, AKA the Cleverest Thing We've Seen in a While," 15 Feb. 2017 Civil War studies have gone in many directions since the publication of David Potter’s magnum opus. Joanne B. Freeman, WSJ, "Five Best: Joanne B. Freeman on Books About the Crisis of the 1850s," 20 Sep. 2018 The SoCal four-piece released a string of seminal thrash classics in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, including their genre-defying 1986 magnum opus, Reign in Blood. Bryan Rolli, Billboard, "Slayer Close Out First Leg of Farewell Tour with Blistering, Career-Spanning Austin Performance," 21 June 2018 Tyler, the Creator doled out his magnum opus last year in Flower Boy and just wrapped a titillating performance on Wednesday night at The Shrine in Los Angeles. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The 10 Toughest Set Time Conflicts at Coachella 2018," 12 Apr. 2018 Metanet Software’s magnum opus was endlessly engrossing when released on the PS4 three years ago, and its freeform structure and bite-sized stages turn out to work even better in portable form. Sam Byford, The Verge, "The perfect platformer comes to the perfect platform," 24 May 2018 Finding foreigners who have actually read Xi’s magnum opus is about as easy as finding thigh-slapping jokes in it. The Economist, "Xi Jinping’s new blockbuster is getting a hard sell," 26 Apr. 2018 The band’s 1978 magnum opus, Heavy Horses, is partly a song cycle about animals in the English countryside and the United Kingdom’s retirement of horsepower in favor of industrial machinery. Morgan Enos, Billboard, "Jethro Tull Announces '50 for 50' 3-Disc Retrospective: Here are 5 Highlights From the Set," 27 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'magnum opus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of magnum opus

1791, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for magnum opus


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magnum opus

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Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for magnum opus

The first known use of magnum opus was in 1791

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More Definitions for magnum opus

magnum opus


English Language Learners Definition of magnum opus

: a great work : the greatest achievement of an artist or writer

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