nem·​e·​sis | \ ˈne-mə-səs How to pronounce nemesis (audio) \

Definition of nemesis

1 capitalized : the Greek goddess of retributive justice
2 plural nemeses\ ˈne-​mə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce nemesis (audio) \
a : one that inflicts retribution or vengeance Many a pursued man fell before his nemesis in the streets …— Agnes Morely Cleaveland
b : a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent The team was defeated by its old nemesis.
3 plural nemeses
a : an act or effect of retribution … pursue them with the nemesis of outraged humanity.— Donald Culross Peattie
b : bane sense 1 A nemesis of humankind since the first hand slapped the first cheek, mosquitoes have bitten their way into the American experience …— Jack Cox

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Nemesis and Greek Mythology

Nemesis was the Greek goddess of vengeance, a deity who doled out rewards for noble acts and punishment for evil ones. The Greeks believed that Nemesis didn't always punish an offender immediately but might wait generations to avenge a crime. In English, nemesis originally referred to someone who brought a just retribution, but nowadays people are more likely to see animosity than justice in the actions of a nemesis.

Examples of nemesis in a Sentence

On just the kind of putt that had been a career-long nemesis, he kept his head perfectly still and knocked the ball squarely in the hole. — Jaime Diaz, Sports Illustrated, 20 Feb. 1995 Japan and Iraq have been floated as possible successors for the role once filled by Amercia's old nemesis, the Soviet Union … — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, 18 June 1993 In the beginning were the words, winged at first until, paralysed, they fell to earth and were imprisoned by their nemesis, the alphabet. — Erich Segal, Times Literary Supplement, 12 July 1991 Thus, once surgeons implant the new graft, tissue rejection—the unforgiving nemesis of most transplant attempts—occurs in only 3% to 5% of cases. — Christine Gorman et al., Time, 7 Dec. 1987 He will be playing his old nemesis for the championship. Batman is the Joker's main nemesis and always foils his wicked plots.
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Recent Examples on the Web The Gaels, a nemesis in the WCC tournament some years, were no match this time as Gonzaga built an 18-point lead by halftime and cruised home. Erick Smith, USA TODAY, "A look at every game in Gonzaga's unbeaten run to the men's basketball tournament title game," 5 Apr. 2021 Despite playing the second half in significant pain from a targeting hit from a Tigers defender, Fields threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes past their national nemesis. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football’s Justin Fields declares for 2021 NFL Draft after two playoff seasons with Buckeyes," 18 Jan. 2021 In an unusual twist, Mr. Liddy teamed up with Leary, his former nemesis, for a series of debates on college campuses. Washington Post, "G. Gordon Liddy, undercover operative convicted in Watergate scandal, dies at 90," 30 Mar. 2021 And then an old nemesis from the Cavs-Warriors Finals matchups delivered the dagger. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Cleveland Cavaliers lose heartbreaker to Sacramento Kings, 100-98," 28 Mar. 2021 Lee also teased upcoming titles slated for podcast, including a show featuring Catwoman and Katana, a sword-wielding martial artist; Superman and Lois Lane; Batman’s puzzling nemesis the Riddler; and Batgirl. Rob Salkowitz, Forbes, "Spotify And DC Tease New Superhero Podcasts As War For Fans’ Ears Heats Up," 24 Feb. 2021 In a telling scene, the young-adult Beth bumps into her former nemesis from high school, a popular queen bee named Margaret. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, "Your move: ‘Queen’s Gambit’ offers viewers more than good chess," 24 Nov. 2020 More’s nemesis in the court of King Henry VIII, and the man who brought about More’s execution at the King’s command., "Concrete brings clarity to New York City’s opulent Frick Collection," 1 Apr. 2021 This now leaves the mayor free to strut about spouting his woke pieties without any fear of being one-upped by his nemesis, the governor. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "The ‘Equity’ of Bill de Blasio," 15 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nemesis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of nemesis

1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nemesis

borrowed from Latin, borrowed from Greek némesis "retribution, righteous anger, blame," probably derivative (with -esis, analogically extended form of -sis, -tis, suffix of action nouns) of némein "to apportion, distribute" — more at nimble

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Time Traveler for nemesis

Time Traveler

The first known use of nemesis was in 1561

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Last Updated

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nemesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for nemesis



English Language Learners Definition of nemesis

: an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat

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