nem·​e·​sis | \ˈne-mə-səs \

Definition of nemesis 

1 capitalized : the Greek goddess of retributive justice

2 plural nemeses\ˈne-​mə-​ˌsēz \

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

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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

Jay and Cam’s less than politically correct coaching style earns them a class on sensitivity; Mitch runs into Phil’s nemesis at an unlikely place. Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, "TV Picks for Wednesday: ‘Christmas in Rockefeller Center’ on KING," 28 Nov. 2018 Brandon is a talent manager, and one of his longtime celebrity clients is none other than his wife’s Voice nemesis, Blake. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Did You Know Kelly Clarkson’s Husband Is Blake Shelton’s Manager?," 1 Oct. 2018 And could Kingpin be making a reprise as Matt's arch nemesis? Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Matt Murdock is back and darker than ever in new trailer for Daredevil season 3," 21 Sep. 2018 This all went down after Kimball's nemesis David Ravitz pushed one-too-many buttons, snitching on him to Bachelorette Becca Kufrin. Kathryn Lindsay,, "Jordan Kimball's Incredibly Stirring Modeling Speech On The Bachelorette, Annotated," 12 June 2018 And that's because this particular Shetland pony is the Queen's longtime nemesis. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Queen Elizabeth’s Nemesis Is This Tiny Pony," 6 Aug. 2018 Also, Dell’s move could prove more dramatic than most because the company has a kind of nemesis, in the form of activist investor Carl Icahn. Evan Horowitz,, "Public, private, now public again. Dell’s dance with investors makes sense," 2 July 2018 Democrats are in charge now, and long-time Bengals nemesis Todd Portune is board president. Jason Williams,, "PX column: Bengals' threat reminds us they're not about being good corporate citizens," 6 June 2018 At a rally in West Columbia on Monday night, Trump pointed to his frequent nemesis, the news media, and warned that a loss for McMaster would be portrayed as a defeat for him. NBC News, "South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Trump supporter, wins GOP runoff," 27 June 2018

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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Statistics for nemesis

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for nemesis

The first known use of nemesis was in 1561

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English Language Learners Definition of nemesis

: an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat

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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).


to make faulty or ineffective

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