• opuscule •
ê-pês-kyul • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A small creative work such as a short article, poem, or short piece of music.
Notes: Opuscule is a diminutive of opus, as in magnum opus "major work". (A diminutive is a word meaning "a small X", as a booklet in English means "small book" and duckling means "small duck".) Things that have the characteristic of a small creative work are opuscular, which leaves the door open for opuscularity, a word no one seems to have dared use thus far.
In Play: This word may refer seriously to any short creative work: "Dr. Goodword enjoys writing opuscules on interesting English words in his Good Word series." It may also be used derisively: "Hadley thinks that he will receive tenure at this university on the basis of the opuscules he publishes in obscure journals from time to time."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Latin opusculum "small work", as mentioned above, the diminutive of opus, operis "work". The plural of opus was opera in Latin, a word English borrowed for an entirely different purpose. The root of opus (oper-) is found in many words English borrowed from Latin and its Romance daughter languages. These include opera, operate, and opulent, from Latin opulentus "rich, wealthy", a word that made sense when wealth was related to work. A late Latin compound verb, manuoperare "work with the hands", from manus "hand" + operare "work", came to French as manœuvrer. English borrowed this word as maneuver (British manoeuvre), but early farmers maneuvered it to fit something they often maneuvered in the field: manure. Believe it or not. (Today's opuscule on the word opuscule was suggested by the mysterious Grogie, master of the arcane in the Alpha Agora.)
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