nemesis

noun
nem·​e·​sis | \ ˈne-mə-səs How to pronounce nemesis (audio) \

Essential Meaning of nemesis

: an opponent or enemy that is very difficult to defeat He will be playing his old nemesis for the championship.

Full 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 By any objective measure, the Bengals are catching their divisional nemesis at an opportune moment. Childs Walker, baltimoresun.com, 24 Dec. 2021 The reigning Super Bowl champion Bucs (9-3) can clinch their first NFC South crown since 2007 with a win over the Bills (7-5) and some outside help on Sunday, when Buffalo faces its old nemesis for the first since Brady moved to Tampa Bay in 2020. Fred Goodall, orlandosentinel.com, 10 Dec. 2021 The 1980s is known as one of the most important eras in the NBA, thanks to the rivalry between the Lakers and their longtime nemesis, the Boston Celtics, at the time led by the prolific Larry Bird. Jason Duaine Hahn, PEOPLE.com, 9 Dec. 2021 As an aide lifted him from his wheelchair, an ailing and sorrowful Dole slowly steadied himself and saluted his one-time nemesis with his left hand, his chin quivering. John Hanna And Calvin Woodward, chicagotribune.com, 5 Dec. 2021 As an aide lifted him from his wheelchair, an ailing and sorrowful Dole slowly steadied himself and saluted his one-time nemesis with his left hand, his chin quivering. The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Dec. 2021 As an aide lifted him from his wheelchair, an ailing and sorrowful Dole slowly steadied himself and saluted his one-time nemesis with his left hand, his chin quivering. John Hanna And Cal Woodward, Anchorage Daily News, 5 Dec. 2021 His nemesis across the field Saturday, James Franklin, on Tuesday agreed to a 10-year extension reportedly worth $85 million. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, 29 Nov. 2021 So when Brady makes yet another November trip to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, his first with Tampa Bay, Colts fans don’t want to see their old nemesis celebrating another milestone moment. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 28 Nov. 2021

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.

See More

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

Learn More About nemesis

Time Traveler for nemesis

Time Traveler

The first known use of nemesis was in 1561

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About nemesis

Dictionary Entries Near nemesis

nemesia

nemesis

nemestrinid

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for nemesis

Last Updated

24 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nemesis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nemesis. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on nemesis

Nglish: Translation of nemesis for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nemesis for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about nemesis

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!