noun, plural nem·e·ses [nem-uh-seez] /ˈnɛm əˌsiz/.

something that a person cannot conquer, achieve, etc.: The performance test proved to be my nemesis.
an opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
(initial capital letter) Classical Mythology. the goddess of divine retribution.
an agent or act of retribution or punishment.

Origin of nemesis

< Latin < Greek némesis literally, a dealing out, verbid of némein to dispense (justice); see -sis

Synonyms for nemesis Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for nemesis

Contemporary Examples of nemesis

Historical Examples of nemesis

  • He had not been made soft by the nemesis that laid him by the heels.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • Yet she did not flinch in her certainty that nemesis must be obeyed and even aided.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • There was the nemesis who didn't like youth to make such a fool of itself.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • But Nemesis, swift and sudden, awaits the faithless Euphues.

    John Lyly

    John Dover Wilson

  • Once arouse him, as he must now be aroused, and he will follow like a Nemesis on your trail.

British Dictionary definitions for nemesis


noun plural -ses (-ˌsiːz)

Greek myth the goddess of retribution and vengeance
(sometimes not capital) any agency of retribution and vengeance

Word Origin for Nemesis

C16: via Latin from Greek: righteous wrath, from némein to distribute what is due
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for nemesis

1570s, Nemesis, "Greek goddess of vengeance, personification of divine wrath," from Greek nemesis "just indignation, righteous anger," literally "distribution" (of what is due), related to nemein "distribute, allot, apportion one's due," from PIE root *nem- "to divide, distribute, allot, to take" (cf. Old English, Gothic niman "to take," German nehmen; see nimble). With a lower-case -n-, in the sense of "retributive justice," attested from 1590s. General sense of "anything by which it seems one must be defeated" is 20c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

nemesis in Culture



In classical mythology, the Greek goddess of vengeance.


By extension, a “nemesis” is an avenger. One's nemesis is that which will bring on one's destruction or downfall.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.