Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A great work, especially a literary or artistic masterpiece.
  • n. The greatest single work of an artist, writer, or composer.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A great work of literature or art, a masterpiece.
  • n. The best, most popular, or most renowned achievement of an author or artist, representing his major life effort.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A great work of art or literature.
  • n. The greatest work or achievement of a particular artist, writer, or other individual.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a great work of art or literature

Etymologies

Latin : magnum, neuter of magnus, great + opus, work.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin magnum opus ("great work"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Meanwhile, Lord Peter’s projected magnum opus on a-hundred-and-one ways of causing sudden death had advanced by the accumulation of a mass of notes which flowed all over the library at the flat, and threatened to engulf Bunter, whose task it was to file and cross-reference and generally to produce order from chaos.

    Unnatural Death

  • "I never expected to write my magnum opus long after I retired."

    I Don’t Understand ?

  • It was a matter of considerable grief to Mr Quarterstone that no genuine producer had ever been induced to see eye to eye with him on the subject of the superlative merits of that amorous masterpiece, so that after he had grown weary of collecting rejections Mr Quarterstone had been reduced to the practical expedient of using his magnum opus as one of the props in the more profitable but by no means less artistic drama from which he and Mr Urlaub derived their precarious incomes; but his loyalty to the child of his brain had never been shaken.

    The Saint on Guard

  • We are reminded of NICOLAS FLAMEL (1330-1418), who is reputed to have achieved the magnum opus together with his wife PERNELLE, as well as of the many other women workers in the Art of whom we read.

    Bygone Beliefs

  • His magnum opus was his edition of the Works of Dr. Thomas Reid, left unfinished, and completed by Mansel.

    A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature

  • The magnum opus of his literary activity is: "Fasciculus rerum expetendarum ac fugiendarum"

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 6: Fathers of the Church-Gregory XI

  • His magnum opus entitled The Golden Bough comprises twelve volumes, an index and bibliographical volume, and a volume called Aftermath.

    ORIGINS OF RELIGION

  • Eothen, a brilliant and original work of Eastern travel, published in 1844; but his magnum opus was his

    A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature

Comments

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  • WORD: magnum opus

    EXAMPLE from Charlotte's Web:

    Next to her, attached to the ceiling, Wilbur saw a curious object. It was a sort of sac, or cocoon. It was peach-colored and looked as though it were made of cotton candy.

    "What is that nifty little thing? Did you make it? Is it a plaything?

    "Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my magnum opus."

    "I don't know what a magnum opus is," said Wilbur.

    "That's Latin," explained Charlotte. "It means 'great work.' This egg sac is my great work -- the finest thing I have ever made."

    "What's inside it? asked Wilbur. "Eggs?"

    "Five hundred and fourteen of them," she replied.

    -- 1952 E.B. WHITE. Charlotte's Web. Chapter XIX -- The Egg Sac (pages 144 - 145).

    September 28, 2013

  • This made me think of Magnum Opie... which, unfortunately, induced a fit of giggles. How sad is that?

    June 28, 2011

  • a big Irish cat.

    July 14, 2008