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

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 Ken Burns’ new opus, an eight-part, 16-hour history that starts with the earliest recordings of country music and follows its evolution through famed artists including Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks. Washington Post, "Fall brings new shows, services and chance of bigger TV tabs," 5 Sep. 2019 Piketty has modified his thinking since his previous opus. Idrees Kahloon, The New Yorker, "Thomas Piketty Goes Global," 2 Mar. 2020 The Gentlemen turns out to be a spiffing revival of that quintessentially 1990s genre, the hilariously bloody smooth-talking gangster opus. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Gentlemen: Return of the Hilarious Gangster Caper," 23 Jan. 2020 Mrs von der Leyen’s green opus promises to draft legislation that would enshrine the 2050 target by March 2020. The Economist, "The EU’s Green Deal is full of ambition but needs more detail," 12 Dec. 2019 James Gray’s opus begs the question of whether we ever should have landed on the moon at all. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Ad Astra' and Refuting the Rules of Sci-Fi," 23 Sep. 2019 Instead, joining Lana on the script of this Matrix sequel are the novelists David Mitchell, whose opus Cloud Atlas was adapted for film by the Wachowskis in 2012, and Aleksandar Hemon, the author of Nowhere Man and The Lazarus Project. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Matrix 4 Could Be Just What Hollywood Needs," 21 Aug. 2019 In a direct tip of the hat to Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, Marsalis’ opus also featured a sequence for tap dancer Jared Grimes, his juxtaposition of hard accents and fleet footwork reflecting this score’s expressive range. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Sacred jazz: Reflections on a rare performance of Marsalis’ ‘Abyssinian Mass’," 27 Nov. 2019 The roughly 23,000-word opus took on a dizzying array of controversial subjects, including artificial intelligence, privacy, education, health care, infrastructure, immigration, student loans and the relative merits of capitalism and socialism. Washington Post, "Jamie Dimon Hints That Banks Could Aid Value Investors," 20 Sep. 2019

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

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Opus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opus. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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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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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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