noun nem·e·sis \ ˈne-mə-səs \
|Updated on: 4 Aug 2018

Definition of nemesis

1 capitalized : the Greek goddess of retributive justice
2 plural nemeses play \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 2
  • A nemesis of humankind since the first hand slapped the first cheek, mosquitoes have bitten their way into the American experience …
  • —Jack Cox

nemesis was our Word of the Day on 10/14/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of nemesis in a Sentence

  1. 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 DiazSports Illustrated20 Feb. 1995
  2. Japan and Iraq have been floated as possible successors for the role once filled by Amercia's old nemesis, the Soviet Union … —Michiko KakutaniNew York Times18 June 1993
  3. In the beginning were the words, winged at first until, paralysed, they fell to earth and were imprisoned by their nemesis, the alphabet. —Erich SegalTimes Literary Supplement12 July 1991
  4. 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.Time7 Dec. 1987
  5. He will be playing his old nemesis for the championship.

  6. Batman is the Joker's main nemesis and always foils his wicked plots.

Recent Examples of nemesis from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

Other Mythology and Folklore Terms

NEMESIS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of nemesis for English Language Learners

  • : an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat

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