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

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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

Israel’s agenda with Russia revolves around the Jewish state’s nemesis, Iran. Angela Stent, WSJ, "Vladimir Putin’s Big Push Into the Middle East," 15 Feb. 2019 Today, the Duke of York met up with a longtime friend—and sometimes nemesis—of the royal family: Corporal Cruachan IV, the Shetland pony. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry Have Both Had Run-ins with Cruachan, the Mischevious Shetland Pony," 17 Jan. 2019 Credence is possessed by a dark destructive force known as an Obscurus, which Grindelwald hopes to use as a weapon against his nemesis, Albus Dumbledore. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "The biggest unanswered questions from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," 26 Nov. 2018 Hopefully the Queen can rest up during this vacation, in anticipation of yet another showdown with her equine nemesis. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Queen Elizabeth’s Nemesis Is This Tiny Pony," 6 Aug. 2018 Multiple media reports have Stephenson receiving a one-year, $4.5-million deal to play with his long-time nemesis. Nat Newell, Indianapolis Star, "NBA free agency has outdone itself: Lance and LeBron, teammates at last," 1 July 2018 If Poirot is to match his nemesis then everything about him will be called into question; his authority, his integrity, his past, his identity. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, "John Malkovich to Play Hercule Poirot in 'The ABC Murders' for Amazon/BBC," 23 May 2018 Fueled by burritos and doughnuts, the East T-birds are back on top of the Anchorage high school softball world after back-to-back victories over their nemesis this weekend. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "T-birds, fueled by burritos and doughnuts, keep their softball record perfect," 6 May 2018 The Panthers will wrap up the 2018 regular-season schedule with two games in a three-week span against a division rival and their nemesis from last season. Jourdan Rodrigue And Joseph Person, charlotteobserver, "Panthers' schedule includes a Monday night game vs. an NFC South rival | Charlotte Observer," 19 Apr. 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

17 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for nemesis

The first known use of nemesis was in 1561

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More Definitions for nemesis

nemesis

noun

English Language Learners Definition of nemesis

: an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat

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