Part of speech:
(Countable nouns, like “bottle,” “piece,” and “decision,” are words for things that can be broken into exact units. You talk about “a bottle,” “three pieces,” and “many decisions.”
Likewise, talk about one magnum opus, the magnum opus, a magnum opus, or someone's magnum opus.)
"Magnum opus" is Latin for "great work."
Your magnum opus is your absolute best work of art that you've created or your absolute greatest piece of literature that you've written.
More loosely, your magnum opus is just a wonderful thing you've created.
Some dictionaries list the plural as "magna opera," which I don't recommend using because it sounds a bit snobby. You can say "magnum opuses," but generally we just use the singular.
How to use it:
Call something someone's magnum opus (or call it the magnum opus of someone), either seriously or jokingly, when it's the best thing that person has ever created or achieved. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird is Harper Lee's magnum opus.
This phrase is also great for sarcasm and understatement: "With lyrics that repeat over and over until you reach the brink of insanity, the new song is not exactly the star's magnum opus."
Lastly, although you usually talk about a person's magnum opus, you can certainly get more abstract than that: "The fields of bluebonnets in Texas are nature's magnum opus."
My grandfather's magnum opus, a hardcover book of stories and photos about his life and family, is one of our most treasured heirlooms.
It's purely a matter of opinion and debate: which Shakespeare play do you think is his magnum opus? I'd vote for Romeo and Juliet.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "magnum opus" means when you can explain it without saying “achievement" or "creation."
Think of your favorite artist, singer, songwriter, or author, and fill in the blanks: "(Person's) magnum opus is definitely _____, which _____."
Example: "Elton John's magnum opus is definitely the two-disc Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, which has 17 tracks, all perfect for belting out gleefully in the car or at karaoke."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
Playing With Words:
Our game for July is called A Verbal Tour of the US. I’ll ask you a trivia question each day this month about the names of US cities, states, geographic features, etc. Try it out each day, and see the right answer the next day. Happy verbal trails to you!
Word-wise, what does Indiana have in common with Oklahoma?
Answer: Their capital cities include the names of their states: Indianapolis, Indiana, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In other words, they’re best loved by kids being made to memorize all the state capitals. (If you said that the state names are both references to Native Americans, that’s also correct.)
Try this one today:
This state’s motto is “Fatti maschii, parole femine,” meaning “Manly deeds, womanly words.” That’s not just cute but also fitting: the state’s name is feminine. What is it?
A Point Well Made:
Juliet Kinchin: “Children help us to mediate between the ideal and the real.”
1. The opposite of MAGNUM OPUS is
A. FINIS CORONAT OPUS ("the crown ends the work")
B. OPUSCULE ("minor, small piece of work")
C. OPUS DEI ("the work of God")
2. Billy Joel sang about his magnum opus in the lines "______"
A. Driving around with the car top down and the radio on.
B. I knew it complete when I wore a younger man's clothes.
C. It took me years to write it. They were the best years of my life.
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
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