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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web As a player Bill Russell was the 6-foot-10 stab through the Lakers heart, leading the Boston Celtics to seven NBA Finals victories over the franchise, the biggest single nemesis in their history. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 1 Aug. 2022 Written by Dano with art by Stevan Subic, the story turns back the clock to uncover how an unassuming accountant went from being a nobody to Batman's nemesis. Sydney Bucksbaum,, 22 July 2022 Or topline salaries: Chris Evans plays Gosling’s nemesis. Mark Feeney,, 19 July 2022 The restaurant where her father works is hosting a meal for the homeless families, an event instigated by Shara’s mother’s nemesis, the South Asian community organizer, and backed by Shara’s father’s boss, who is comping the evening’s costs. Han Ong, The New Yorker, 18 July 2022 Aesop’s father, a West Coast executive for the family’s rubber-manufacturing business, was his son’s nemesis. Gary Baum, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 July 2022 On at least one thing, President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Russian counterpart and nemesis, Vladimir V. Putin, were in agreement: Though its forces are severely depleted, Russia’s assault on Ukraine is nowhere near finished. New York Times, 11 July 2022 Rhys Ifans plays Keith Mackenzie, the snooty golfing official from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the home of the Open, who becomes Maurice’s de facto nemesis. Michael O'sullivan, Washington Post, 31 May 2022 Illinois’ political battle of the billionaires has long been thought to be Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the governor’s nemesis, businessman Ken Griffin. Rick Pearson And Clare Spaulding, Chicago Tribune, 21 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of nemesis was in 1561

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Last Updated

4 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nemesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on nemesis

Nglish: Translation of nemesis for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nemesis for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about nemesis


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