• opusculum •
(US) o-pês-kyê-lêm, (UK) ê-pês-kyê-lêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: A small opus, a minor work, antonym to magnum opus.
Notes: English first borrowed the older Latin word, which apparently some writers didn't like, so they added the French version of today's word, opuscule, too. The plural of opusculum is still the Latin opuscula; otherwise, it is a lexical isolate.
In Play: Today's Good Word is a perfect example of an opusculum. While the series, now approaching 4000 words, might be called a magnum opus "large work", each item in the series exemplifies an opusculum. Anywhere the size of a product is significant, today's word will work: "Rusty Horne's performance consisted of a short series of musical opuscula."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Latin opusculum "small work", the diminutive of opus, operis "work". The plural of opus was opera in Latin, a word English borrowed from Italian for a different purpose. The root of opus (oper-) is found in many words English borrowed from Latin and its Romance daughter languages, like operate, opulence, copy, optimum and office. It comes from PIE ep-/op- "work, perform", remnants of which we see in Sanskrit apas- "work", Greek ompne "food, nourishment", Albanian puna "work, labor", Icelandic efni "material" and verkefni "task", and German üben "to exercise, workout, practice". (Now, a large dose of gratitude to Holly Davis for spotting today's fascinating Good Word, and to her husband, longtime Wordmaster George Kovac, for conveying it to us.)
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