plural opera ˈō-pə-rə How to pronounce opus (audio) ˈä- How to pronounce opus (audio) also opuses ˈō-pə-səz How to pronounce opus (audio)
: 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 The film version of Taylor Swift’s mega-hit, record-breaking concert tour and Martin Scorsese’s opus on the murder of members of the Osage people in the 1920s are as inextricably linked as Barbie and Oppenheimer were this summer. Sarah Spellings, Vogue, 23 Oct. 2023 Reggio is pleased with the many homages to his opus. Tim Grierson, Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023 Steered by distributor Searchlight Pictures, responsible for four best picture victors since 2009, Lanthimos’ latest opus has already established itself as a formidable contender. Clayton Davis, Variety, 20 Sep. 2023 That said, an artist not matching their opus isn’t the automatic mark of a miss. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 31 July 2023 After an image of the artwork to Sufjan Stevens’ indie-folk opus Illinois surfaced on the board, Anjimile downloaded the album from LimeWire. Eric Torres, Pitchfork, 14 Sep. 2023 The 688-page opus details Musk’s brutal treatment of workers and colleagues, his impulsive business moves and his chaotic romantic life. Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times, 12 Sep. 2023 Apple Studios announced Tuesday that Martin Scorsese’s opus, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone, will hit cineplexes Oct. 20, with a streaming debut on Apple TV+ to follow at an undetermined date. Matt Donnelly, Variety, 29 Aug. 2023 Margo Price continues to embark on her own evolution with Strays II, an extension of her original 2023 opus with nine new songs that will arrive in the form of three distinct acts. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 22 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'opus.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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.

First Known Use

1808, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of opus was in 1808

Dictionary Entries Near opus

Cite this Entry

“Opus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


plural opera
also opuses ˈō-pə-səz How to pronounce opus (audio)
: work entry 1 sense 7
especially : a musical composition or set of compositions

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