magnum opus

mag·​num opus | \ ˈmag-nəm-ˈō-pəs How to pronounce magnum opus (audio) \

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

So do Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson’s sneaky-brilliant Kismet, David Chang’s magnum opus Majordomo and Thai Town’s defining Jitlada. Bill Addison,, "What rings true and false for Los Angeles in Michelin's new California guide," 4 June 2019 Drawing the Curtain also explores Sendak’s contributions to a darkly subversive adaptation of The Nutcracker, Leoš Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen, Sergei Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, and his own magnum opus, Where the Wild Things Are. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "See Maurice Sendak’s Little-Known Designs for the Opera and Ballet," 1 July 2019 The Pleasure of Your Company’’ (1997) and her magnum opus, ‘‘One Big Table’’ (2010). Tim Carman,, "Molly O’Neill, prizewinning food writer, dies at 66," 21 June 2019 What had been a moratorium became a magnum opus for the artist known as Woj, solidifying his place in the NBA’s culture. Jacob Feldman,, "2019 NBA Draft Media Preview: What to Expect from TV Broadcasts, Twitter and More," 20 June 2019 These initiatives, however, were only precursors to the finance lobby’s magnum opus: the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's magazine, "No Joe!," 10 June 2019 Tolkien employs a familiar biopic trope, showing glimpses of elements that would one day fuel the creative furnace of his magnum opus. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "'Tolkien': A Life Where Fantasy Met Reality," 3 May 2019 The truth is that Phoebe Philo created a magnum opus with Céline. Amanda Murray, Teen Vogue, "People Are Scrambling to Buy Old Céline After Hedi Slimane's Controversial Collection," 26 Oct. 2018 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

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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Dictionary Entries near magnum opus




magnum opus

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magnus hitch


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Last Updated

20 Jul 2019

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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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