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

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 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

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

Magnus effect

magnus hitch


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Last Updated

22 Jun 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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What made you want to look up magnum opus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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