nem·​e·​sis ˈne-mə-səs How to pronounce nemesis (audio)
capitalized : the Greek goddess of retributive justice
plural nemeses ˈne-mə-ˌsēz How to pronounce nemesis (audio)
: one that inflicts retribution or vengeance
Many a pursued man fell before his nemesis in the streets …Agnes Morely Cleaveland
: a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent
The team was defeated by its old nemesis.
plural nemeses
: an act or effect of retribution
… pursue them with the nemesis of outraged humanity.Donald Culross Peattie
: 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 simple animosity rather than justice in the actions of a nemesis (consider the motivations of Batman’s perennial foe the Joker, for example).

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Unable to stop picking up fouls or slow down an offensive juggernaut who practically couldn’t miss, UCLA found a new way to fall to an old nemesis. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, 23 Nov. 2023 His arch nemesis, Richard Nixon, had fled the White House like a diseased cur after the Watergate scandal and in his disappearance from the political scene, Thompson lost perhaps his greatest muse. Rory Feehan, SPIN, 9 Nov. 2023 Focused on taking down the Apex predator, Cady, Janis and Damian set out to ruin Regina’s image and status, ingraining Cady into her nemesis’ life, which includes that infamous burn book and a desperate to be cool Mrs. George (Busy Philipps). Abbey White, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Nov. 2023 His nemesis, the Duke of Wellington, occupied a slope across the fields, with a mere sixty-seven thousand troops. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023 Reeling from the deaths of his children and weak from an untreatable disease, the billionaire lures his longtime nemesis C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly), who has spent decades trying to bring the Ushers to justice, to his crumbling childhood home — with the promise of a full confession. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 11 Oct. 2023 The story follows high school senior Charlotte Wu, who wakes up one morning to find that she’s been catapulted decades into the future, and is engaged to her high school nemesis. Carly Tagen-Dye, Peoplemag, 2 Oct. 2023 Look no further than the fact that McCarthy’s nemesis, Gaetz, tried and failed to help Emmer, McCarthy’s ally, secure the speakership. Erin B. Logan, Los Angeles Times, 25 Oct. 2023 The Saudis may also oppose a price cap strengthening a nascent buyer’s cartel, which could challenge the power of OPEC as a seller’s cartel, but the price cap would hurt its nemesis Iran far more. TIME, 23 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nemesis.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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 rule, distribute, apportion" — more at nimble

First Known Use

1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of nemesis was in 1561


Dictionary Entries Near nemesis

Cite this Entry

“Nemesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


nem·​e·​sis ˈnem-ə-səs How to pronounce nemesis (audio)
plural nemeses -ə-ˌsēz How to pronounce nemesis (audio)
: one that punishes or avenges
: a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent
: an act or instance of just punishment

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