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 Ken Schramm is the Godfather of modern American mead, and this book is his magnum opus. Parker Hall, Wired, "Everything You Need To Make Beer, Wine, Cider, and Mead," 11 July 2020 Back in 2002, after years of labor, Wolfram self-published A New Kind of Science, a 1,200-page magnum opus detailing the general idea that nature runs on ultrasimple computational rules. Adam Becker, Scientific American, "Physicists Criticize Stephen Wolfram’s ‘Theory of Everything’," 6 May 2020 This exuberant magnum opus made a big splash when it was published in 1996 and became required reading for young, brainy sophisticates. Brandon Griggs, CNN, "15 epic books you may finally have time to read now," 10 May 2020 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, arguably his magnum opus and potentially his second-to-last feature film, sees Tate escape her brutal murder, her would-be attackers slashed and burned by two heroic doofuses: one an actor, one a stuntman. Philippa Snow, The New Republic, "Hollywood Keeps Trying to Rewrite Its History," 1 May 2020 Duncan was named the MVP of his first three Finals trips, but his 2003 demolition of the New Jersey Nets stands as his magnum opus. Jeff Mcdonald,, "21 for 21: Celebrating certain Hall of Famer Tim Duncan," 3 Apr. 2020 Half-Life 2, Valve's magnum opus, was released in 2004. Julie Muncy, Wired, "Black Mesa, a Half-Life Fan Fantasy, Finally Comes to Life," 5 Mar. 2020 Coltrane’s magnum opus, the quartet drives its modal approach to a devotional extreme. Giovanni Russonello, New York Times, "McCoy Tyner’s Essential Recordings: Listen to 11 Tracks," 9 Mar. 2020 Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Last of Us' Series in the Works at HBO From 'Chernobyl' Creator Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann (Exclusive)," 5 Mar. 2020

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

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The first known use of magnum opus was in 1791

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Last Updated

25 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Magnum opus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for magnum opus

magnum opus

How to pronounce magnum opus (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of magnum opus

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

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