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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Synonyms & Antonyms for nemesis


affliction, bane, curse, scourge


benefit, blessing, boon, felicity, godsend, good, manna, windfall

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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

Between resurgent ticket sales and a new, arguably superior subscription plan from MoviePass arch-nemesis AMC, the challenges facing that plan appear to be growing. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "U.S. Summer Box Office Surges Back to Near-Record Levels," 30 June 2018 The best: 2018 helping beat LeBron This year Stephenson appeared to do a lot better against his nemesis. Jordan Guskey, Indianapolis Star, "Lance Stephenson: The best and worst of his Indiana Pacers career," 25 June 2018 The Wolverines did play their A game in the semifinals against nemesis North Branford, which had handed them their only regular-season loss in a 2-1 squeaker less than a month before. Janice Steinhagen, Courant Community, "Griswold State Class M Softball Runnerup," 11 June 2018 The debate over funding for the subway modernization plan could again pit Mr. Cuomo against his frequent political nemesis Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York Times, "A Sweeping Plan to Fix the Subways Comes With a $19 Billion Price Tag," 22 May 2018 That same year, Landis instigated another case, this time a civil complaint that aimed to blow the whistle on Armstrong, Landis’ nemesis and former teammate on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY, "Did Floyd Landis get the last laugh against Lance Armstrong?," 19 Apr. 2018 Joe Mauer entered Monday evening a .325 career hitter against Verlander, clubbing four home runs against his former division nemesis. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Justin Verlander strong night secures Astros victory against Twins," 9 Apr. 2018 More worrying still, President Barack Obama, unlike other past Presidents, was willing to engage persistently with Iran, the Saudis’ chief nemesis. Karl Vick, Time, "The Saudi Crown Prince Thinks He Can Transform the Middle East. Should We Believe Him?," 5 Apr. 2018 That will cheer Orban, who has made the Jewish investor his personal nemesis and national boogeyman in recent years. Griff Witte, Washington Post, "Viktor Orban promised ‘revenge’ against his enemies in Hungary. Now they’re preparing for it.," 14 May 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

13 Oct 2018

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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).


one that holds something together

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