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 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 Stallone plays John Spartan, a roughneck cop brought out of his cryo-freeze prison to pursue an old ultra-violent nemesis (Wesley Snipes) who is loose in a non-violent future society. Ben Flanagan |, al, "Sylvester Stallone turns 74 today; Here are his 10 best movies," 6 July 2020 In the Disney adaptation, Uncle Remus—a Black man living on a Georgian plantation—regales a young white boy with stories of a trickster hare, Br’er Rabbit, and his dimwitted nemesis, Br’er Fox. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "Why one Disney park might keep Splash Mountain’s controversial theme, which critics call ‘racist’," 29 June 2020 The result is developing into a tussle for control of a misfiring campaign, pitting Bannon against his old White House nemesis Kushner. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "Steve Bannon sounds alarm over faltering Trump campaign," 26 June 2020 Aaron Burr, friend and nemesis of Alexander Hamilton, narrates the tale, taking the audience from Hamilton’s humble origins, through his meteoric rise, to his tragic fall. National Geographic, "They lived, they died, but 'Hamilton' didn't tell their story," 26 June 2020 Rose Byrne’s performance as Gary’s Republican counterpart and nemesis Faith Brewster. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Jon Stewart’s Irresistible Is a Political Comedy Heavy on Zingers But Light on Revelations," 24 June 2020 Aaron Tomplait at Nederland was a nemesis for the Lady Broncos, McCombs former team at Dayton. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Summer Creek Bulldogs new lady’s soccer coach brings wealth of experience," 20 June 2020 The cartoon shows Fudd chasing his nemesis Bugs Bunny with a scythe before the rabbit puts a stick of lit dynamite in the hunter's mouth. Danielle Garrand, CBS News, "New "Looney Tunes Cartoons" take away Elmer Fudd's iconic rifle: "We're not doing guns"," 11 June 2020 Then there's Nomi's champagne lunch with her diva nemesis Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), in which the two casually discuss their fondness for eating dog food. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "25 years later, is 'Showgirls' still the worst movie ever made?," 10 June 2020

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

10 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nemesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce nemesis (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nemesis

: an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat

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