\ 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 Pumpkins' 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

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 Mastodon sprawled out and embraced grief on their double-LP opus, but their record had just as much power to uplift as Amyl and the Sniffers’ wiry 35-minute punk burner did to dig its emotional hooks in. Sage Anderson, Rolling Stone, 23 Dec. 2021 Danish art-punks Iceage released the arena-rock opus Seek Shelter, which opens with a full-choir sing-along à la U2. Justin Curto, Vulture, 21 Dec. 2021 The panel started work in 2019 and issued a series of interim reports and recommendations before delivering its final 756-page opus in March. Tom Simonite, Wired, 1 Nov. 2021 Naming his latest opus in her honor is a fitting enshrinement of her musical legacy. George Messenger, National Review, 5 Sep. 2021 To those who have interpreted Wiggins’ nonchalant demeanor as a lack of effort or his on-court deference to teammates as a lack of competitiveness, the words seemed hollow — even after a 35-point opus against his former squad. Rusty Simmons, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Nov. 2021 Published in 10 volumes from the 1830s through the 1870s, Bancroft’s opus is generally seen as the first comprehensive history of the country, and its influence was incalculable. New York Times, 9 Nov. 2021 In the years after his 2016 album, The Life of Pablo—a chaotic opus about mental struggle—much of the cultural consensus around his value as a public figure began to dissipate. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 30 Aug. 2021 Bruce Lee’s posthumous opus Enter the Dragon cemented the martial artist’s legendary status in ’73; here was the rare nonwhite leading man who exuded anti-Establishment energy. Beatrice Loayza, Vulture, 28 Aug. 2021

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.

See More

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.

Learn More About opus

Dictionary Entries Near opus



opus anglicanum

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for opus

Last Updated

30 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Opus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opus. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for opus



English Language Learners Definition of opus

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

More from Merriam-Webster on opus

Nglish: Translation of opus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of opus for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about opus


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!