[ œ-vruh ]
/ ˈœ vrə /
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noun, plural oeu·vres [œ-vruh]. /ˈœ vrə/. French.
the works of a writer, painter, or the like, taken as a whole.
any one of the works of a writer, painter, or the like.
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What does oeuvre mean?

An artist’s oeuvre is their total body of work.

Oeuvre can also refer to a single work of art, but it most commonly refers to the collective work of an artist over a lifetime.

Oeuvre is a formal word most commonly used in the discussion of artists like painters, composers, and literary figures. Because it’s a French loanword and it’s a kind of hard to pronounce, oeuvre is sometimes considered a bit pretentious.

Example: Common throughout F. Scott Fitzgerald’s oeuvre is the theme of indulgence, most evident in his standout novel The Great Gatsby.

Where does oeuvre come from?

The first records of oeuvre in English come from the 1800s. It’s borrowed from French and ultimately derives from the Latin word opera, which is the plural of opus, meaning “work.” (Oeuvre also appears in the French-derived term hors d’oeuvres, which literally translates to “outside the work,” referring to appetizers that are not part of the main course.)

A singular work by an artist can be called an opus (and their greatest achievement can be called their magnum opus). Oeuvre can refer to a single work of art, but it’s much more commonly used to refer to everything they’ve ever done—especially when discussing or analyzing the major themes or styles they’ve focused on throughout their career. For that reason, an artist’s oeuvre is often discussed after their death or retirement. Still, it’s possible to talk about an artist’s oeuvre up until the current moment, especially if they have a substantial collection of work.

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What are some other forms related to oeuvre?

  • oeuvres (plural)

What are some synonyms for oeuvre?

What are some words that share a root or word element with oeuvre

What are some words that often get used in discussing oeuvre?

How is oeuvre used in real life?

Oeuvre is typically used in artistic criticism when analyzing the major themes in an artist’s work.



Try using oeuvre!

Is oeuvre used correctly in the following sentence?

I majored in literature and spent most of my time analyzing Shakespeare’s oeuvre.

How to use oeuvre in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for oeuvre

/ French (œvrə) /

a work of art, literature, music, etc
the total output of a writer, painter, etc

Word Origin for oeuvre

ultimately from Latin opera, plural of opus work
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012