\ ˈō-pəs How to pronounce opus (audio) \
plural opera\ ˈō-​pə-​rə How to pronounce opus (audio) , ˈä-​ \ also opuses\ ˈō-​pə-​səz How to pronounce opus (audio) \

Definition of opus

: work entry 2 sense 3b … produced a vast opus on the history of civilization.— Norman Cousins At present he is planning the Pumkins' next release, a double-album opus that is bound to delight the fans who snatched up his band's last release …— Chris Mundy especially : a musical composition or set of compositions usually numbered in the order of its issue the composer's first opus "… opus numbers are meant to indicate the chronological order of musical pieces, although sometimes they indicate the order of publication rather than the exact order of composition. Sometimes it's actually scholars who make chronological catalogs long after the composers have died. …"— Miles Hoffman

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Did You Know?

A literary opus is often a single novel, though the word may sometimes refer to all of a writer's works. But opus normally is used for musical works. Mendelssohn's Opus 90 is his Italian Symphony, for example, and Brahms's Op. 77 is his Violin Concerto. Since many composers' works were never given opus numbers in an orderly way, they now often have catalog numbers assigned by later scholars. So Haydn's Symphony No. 104 is Hob.104 (Hob. is short for Anthony van Hoboken, the cataloger), and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro is K.492 (K. stands for Ludwig Köchel).

Examples of opus in a Sentence

the composer's final opus was performed posthumously to great acclaim
Recent Examples on the Web Part two of Joanna Hogg’s ongoing semi-autobiographical opus just may touch down in 2021. Alison Willmore, Vulture, "65 Movies We Can’t Wait to See in 2021," 5 Jan. 2021 But, really, this seventeen-minute-long opus is practically an album in itself. John Schaefer, The New Yorker, "A Musical Top Ten for an Unmusical Year," 19 Dec. 2020 His latest work, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, is a follow-up to 1998’s mega-apocalyptic and critically-acclaimed opus, and finds Bus-a-Bus still placing his bars atop pedestals 30 years into his career. Kevin L. Clark, Essence, "Busta Rhymes’ Teaches the Art of Bragging in This Week’s The Playlist," 4 Dec. 2020 The opus originated in 2013, when siblings James and Jane Ginsburg were planning an 80th birthday celebration for their mother. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in song, with help from her Chicago family," 9 Nov. 2020 This true-crime opus keeps the victim centered, reflecting on a young life lost. Barbara Vandenburgh, USA TODAY, "5 books not to miss: Megan Rapinoe's 'One Life,' new Danielle Evans short story collection," 7 Nov. 2020 Now, his opus rocketed to the top of bestseller lists. Elaine Sciolino, Washington Post, "Watching the flames burn Notre Dame, the spiritual heart of France," 6 Nov. 2020 Since her writerly method in this opus is more sectional in nature, her approach is an ideal foil for Lewis’s — making the CD worth the wait for its arrival via snail mail. New York Times, "8 Things to Do This Weekend," 15 Oct. 2020 Below, enchant your eyes with a wonderful assortment of de Gournay wallpapers—all featured in this ornate Rizzoli opus. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "This Enchanting New Book Explores the Beauty of de Gournay Wallpaper," 12 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word '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 opus

1808, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for opus

borrowed from Latin oper-, opus (plural opera) "work, effort, product of labor, work of art," going back to Indo-European *h3ep-os-, *h3ep-es- "work" (whence also Sanskrit apas- "work, action"), derivative of *h3ep- "ability, force," whence Latin op-, *ops "power, ability, wealth, resource(s)," and, with varying suffixation, Sanskrit apnas- "possession, property, work," Hittite happina- "rich," happir-, happar- "business, trade," Germanic *afla- (whence Old English afol "power, might," Old Norse afl "strength"); and, with lengthened ablaut grade, Sanskrit āpas- "work, religious act," Avestan huuāpah- "performing good deeds," Germanic *ōbjan- "to perform" (whence Old Saxon oƀian "to celebrate," Old High German uoben, uoppen "to practice, exercise")

Note: Possibly also related are Old Norse efna "to perform, fulfill," Old English efnan "to accomplish, achieve" (from Germanic *abnjan-?), but this is uncertain.

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Opus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opus. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for opus


How to pronounce opus (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of opus

: a piece of music written by a major composer
formal : an important work done by a writer, painter, etc.

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