\ˈō-pəs \
plural opera\ˈō-​pə-​rə, ˈä-​ \ also opuses\ˈō-​pə-​səz \

Definition of opus 

: work especially : a musical composition or set of compositions usually numbered in the order of its issue

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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

His 2015 release, Elements, an opus inspired by nature, matter, sound and color, hit No. Taylor Mims, Billboard, "Italian Composer Ludovico Einaudi Reaches New Audiences With Intimate North American Tour," 29 June 2018 An amalgam of textures, tones and tempos, the 13-track opus delivers plenty of ear candy for guitar nerds to salivate over, but real heart — often a broken one — lies underneath its mazes of synth, stately piano and spaceship blips and beeps. Janine Schaults, chicagotribune.com, "Been-everywhere producer Jonathan Wilson on his 'do-or-die' new recording," 26 Feb. 2018 Kendrick Lamar’s incendiary, socio-political opus lost to Bruno Mars’ radio-pleasing nostalgia joyride. Chris Payne, Billboard, "Will More of Music's Biggest Stars Shun the Grammys?," 29 Jan. 2018 Gene Knific’s Septet proved the most striking and satisfying opus, by far, the composer intertwining taut jazz rhythm with bracing, 21st century classical writing. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Gregory Porter sounds sumptuous with CSO," 12 June 2018 The Ever Fonky Lowdown— a musical opus focusing on matters of race in America. Felice León, The Root, "Wynton Marsalis Talks Race in America, Jazz and Keeping Music ‘Ever Fonky’," 8 June 2018 Of Schumann’s three concertos, his 1853 opus is the weakest, hence its continuing neglect. John Von Rhein, chicagotribune.com, "Violinist Faust, in a brilliant CSO debut, makes convincing case for flawed Schumann rarity," 12 May 2018 Hughes, equally well known in Britain for her popular historical documentaries, gives us an even heftier opus written with a classicist’s linguistic precision. Lawrence Osborne, New York Times, "A City Where East Meets West and the Past Is Always Present," 4 Jan. 2018 Bernstein’s Mass February 1-4 West Side Story may have been Leonard Bernstein’s opus, but the composer and pianist also achieved renown for his symphonic and orchestral works. Marielle Wakim, Los Angeles Magazine, "Here Are the 12 Best Things to Do in February," 31 Jan. 2018

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

18 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for opus

The first known use of opus was in 1808

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English Language Learners Definition of opus

: a piece of music written by a major composer

: an important work done by a writer, painter, etc.

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More from Merriam-Webster on opus

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for opus

Spanish Central: Translation of opus

Nglish: Translation of opus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of opus for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about opus

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