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

Her biggest nemesis is a furry rodent named squirrel. Bonnie Blodgett, Twin Cities, "Blundering Gardener: A super hardy variety in a pear tree," 27 July 2019 In the semifinals, Smejkal overcame a break point in the decisive third set to defeat her nemesis Blokhina 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to the final. Emmett Hall,, "South Florida tennis teens excel on national stage at Frank Veltri Tennis Center," 25 July 2019 Its nemesis Morgan Stanley shifted into wealth management—a move that has paid off (paywall). Jason Karaian, Quartz, "Deutsche Bank isn’t the only one rethinking investment banking," 13 July 2019 Meanwhile, our nemeses in the Soviet Union don't appear to be on track to land a human on the moon, despite being neck-and-neck with NASA through much of the space race. Alex Stuckey, Houston Chronicle, "Listen: Apollo 11 crew now isolated from rest of world -- except for Nixon," 3 July 2019 Iran hopes to provoke and embarrass its nemesis into overreacting — or not reacting at all. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "U.S. Holds All the Cards in the Showdown with Iran," 20 June 2019 His nemesis Country House, the winner of May's Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security's controversial disqualification, is out too, after missing the Preakness Stakes as well. Lucas Aulbach, The Courier-Journal, "Morning Coffee: The most memorable Belmont Stakes runs of the past 20 years," 7 June 2019 As a result, Frazier is often relegated to being the foil who elevated his nemesis into an icon. Gordon Marino, WSJ, "‘Smokin’ Joe’ Review: Butterfly Fighter," 24 May 2019 The trio essentially say that the only way back to Riverdale is for Archie to come and play with them, forever and ever and ever, which turns out to mean playing one final round of G&G in which his nemesis is… himself. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Riverdale Just Came Dangerously Close to Killing Archie," 17 Jan. 2019

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

18 Aug 2019

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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).


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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