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 Miller playfully chastised his nemesis from long ago on the air. Scott Horner, The Indianapolis Star, 4 June 2021 Aspiring fashionista Estella learns to tap into her inner Cruella in the midst of 1970s London, drawing on a Vivienne Westwood-esque punk rock aesthetic to stage flash-mob runway events that show up her more mainstream nemesis. Sara Stewart, CNN, 29 May 2021 Hedare kills her husband and frames her new nemesis, calling in a death-by-cop in the process. Muna Mire, Vulture, 26 May 2021 But the crime boss wouldn't go down without a fight and kept shooting at Black Lightning, forcing the hero to kill his nemesis with a jot of lightning. Chancellor Agard,, 25 May 2021 Fittingly on Monday, in steady rain against its primary nemesis, Archbishop Spalding, Gilman completed a perfect 4-0 run through the playoffs with a 6-2 win for the program’s third league title and first since 2010. Glenn Graham,, 24 May 2021 The Yankees, 1-5 vs. the Rays this season, host their nemesis beginning on Tuesday. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, 10 May 2021 They are said to have poured freely from the flowing bowl to see their nemesis defeated at the polls. Eric Felten, Washington Examiner, 1 Apr. 2021 Forced to baby-sit with her college nemesis, a young woman starts to see the man in a new light. Los Angeles Times, 5 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

5 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nemesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 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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