noun nem·e·sis \ˈne-mə-səs\

Definition of nemesis

  1. 1 capitalized :  the Greek goddess of retributive justice

  2. 2 plural nemesesplay \ˈne-mə-ˌsēz\ a :  one that inflicts retribution or vengeance Many a pursued man fell before his nemesis in the streets … — Agnes Morely Cleavelandb :  a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent The team was defeated by its old nemesis.

  3. 3 plural nemeses a :  an act or effect of retribution … pursue them with the nemesis of outraged humanity. — Donald Culross Peattieb :  bane 2 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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Examples of nemesis in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. He will be playing his old nemesis for the championship.

  6. Batman is the Joker's main nemesis and always foils his wicked plots.

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of nemesis

Latin, from Greek

First Known Use: 1561

Other Mythology and Folklore Terms

NEMESIS Defined for English Language Learners


noun nem·e·sis \ˈne-mə-səs\

Definition of nemesis for English Language Learners

  • : an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat

Seen and Heard

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a trip made at another's expense

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