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 Then came the afternoon’s magnum opus, Dupré's Symphonie-Passion. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Review: Bradley Hunter Welch pairs two great organist-composers, J.S. Bach and Marcel Dupré, at the Meyerson," 19 Apr. 2021 Morton’s 1839 magnum opus, Crania Americana, was published complete with 78 illustrations of human skulls, some bearing bullet holes. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Forbes, "How A Museum’s Human Skull Collection Sparked A Racial Reckoning," 16 Apr. 2021 As the film points out, each new experience might not have fulfilled his dream of success but did present him with material for what would turn out to be his magnum opus., "Doc Talk: bearing witness, creating Oz, watching whales," 15 Apr. 2021 Most film buffs consider There Will Be Blood to be director Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum opus. Travis Bean, Forbes, "The 10 Best New Movies To Stream On Netflix This April," 3 Apr. 2021 Cassirer’s three-volume magnum opus, first published in Germany between 1923 and 1929, was translated into English by Ralph Manheim in the 1950s, when its author’s reputation was in decline. Adam Kirsch, The New York Review of Books, "The Symbolic Animal," 23 Mar. 2021 Discovering this magical substance was the magnum opus of any alchemist. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "The Eternal Quest for Aether, the Cosmic Stuff That Never Was," 10 Feb. 2021 Hitting $313 million in ticket sales in December, the movie overtook director Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus to become the country’s highest-grossing film of all time. Kat Moon, Time, "Everything to Know About Demon Slayer: The Manga, TV Series and Record-Breaking Film," 24 Feb. 2021 Associated with the magazine for more than three decades — much of his magnum opus began as articles in its pages — Mr. Mehta was widely considered the 20th-century writer most responsible for introducing American readers to India. Margalit Fox, New York Times, "Ved Mehta, Writer Who Illuminated India, Is Dead at 86," 10 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for magnum opus

Time Traveler

The first known use of magnum opus was in 1791

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Statistics for magnum opus

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Magnum opus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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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