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work

The particular sense of the word “work” that I'm interested in is not nonstandard, but it is also not common, and tends to occur only in certain stereotypical phrases such as “a work of art” or “the complete works of William Shakespeare”. Here's how my dictionary defines it.

Something that has been done, made, or performed as a result of one's occupation, effort, or activity …

This is the same meaning that “opus” has in “magnum opus”.

  1. A great work, esp. a literary or artistic masterpiece.
  2. The greatest single work of an artist, writer, or composer.

Since the literal translation of “magnum opus” is “great work”, what we have here is yet another example of the principle that fancy words in English are often just Latin translations of the corresponding dull, ordinary words.

Another interesting point is the choice of words in the second definition. I'm sure the dictionary editors didn't mean to leave out directors (for example); the problem is that there's no English word with exactly the desired meaning. This gap is what my new meaning of the word “actor” is meant to fill.

 

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@ March (2000)