nemesis

noun
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 nemeses (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 2 A nemesis of humankind since the first hand slapped the first cheek, mosquitoes have bitten their way into the American experience …— Jack Cox

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The 47-year-old Duval, a former world No.1 and Tiger Woods' chief nemesis for a spell, doesn't play much these days. Rob Hodgetts, CNN, "Rory McIlroy, David Duval suffer horror holes at The Open," 18 July 2019 Rondon hit Kole Calhoun with the bases loaded, then Astros nemesis Albert Pujols knocked a double down the first-base line to clear the bases. Los Angeles Times, "The Sports Report: It all falls apart for the Dodgers," 17 July 2019 Which brings us back to Djokovic, and his ability to beat one of those longtime nemeses Sunday despite being largely outplayed and being clearly cast as villain by the pro-Federer crowd. Tara Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, "Novak Djokovic-Roger Federer Wimbledon finale was simply tennis at its very best," 16 July 2019 The trio's relaxed chatter bounced between jokes, recent balmy weather - and homicide: One of the men was willing to kill Passage's nemesis. oregonlive.com, "The trouble with tigers in America," 13 July 2019 Among the low-lifes, unreliable narrators, burnouts, spectral figures and missing records is Bugliosi, morphing from hovering presence — monitoring O’Neill’s investigations from afar — to browbeating nemesis. Stephen Phillips, latimes.com, "What really happened in the Manson murders? ‘Chaos’ casts doubt on Helter Skelter theory," 12 July 2019 But in this world, friends can quickly turn into competitors — even nemeses. Travis Deshong, Washington Post, "Meet the pickers who helped you furnish your home," 10 July 2019 More Stories Swift’s gripe is that Borchetta has sold his company—and its rights to masters of Swift’s catalogue—to a man that Swift appears to consider a nemesis: Scooter Braun, one of most famous music executives in the world. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Taylor Swift’s Oddly Personal Contract Dispute," 2 July 2019 Over the course of multiple movies, Hobbs and Shaw evolved from nemeses to begrudgingly tolerant colleagues, becoming fan favorites in the process. Devan Coggan, EW.com, "Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Idris Elba gear up for Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw," 27 June 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about nemesis

Listen to Our Podcast about nemesis

Statistics for nemesis

Last Updated

21 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for nemesis

The first known use of nemesis was in 1561

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nemesis

nemesis

noun

English Language Learners Definition of nemesis

: an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on nemesis

What made you want to look up nemesis? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

something desired as essential

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!