descry

verb
de·​scry | \di-ˈskrī \
descried; descrying

Definition of descry 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to catch sight of I descried a sail— Jonathan Swift

b : find out, discover

2 obsolete : to make known : reveal

descry

noun

Definition of descry (Entry 2 of 2)

obsolete

: discovery or view from afar

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Verb

With descry and the more common decry ("to express strong disapproval of"), we have a case of linguistic double-dipping. That is, English borrowed from the same French root twice. Both words ultimately come from the Old French verb decrier, meaning "to proclaim" or "to decry." English speakers borrowed the term as descry in the 14th century and used it to mean "to proclaim" or "to spy out from a distance" (as a watchman might) and eventually simply "to catch sight of" or "discover." Meanwhile, in French, descrier itself developed into the modern French décrier ("to disparage, to decry"). English speakers borrowed this word as decry in the 17th century. Be careful not to confuse descry and decry. They may be close relatives, but in modern English they have distinct meanings.

Examples of descry in a Sentence

Verb

we couldn't descry the reasons for his sudden departure could just descry the ship coming over the horizon

First Known Use of descry

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1604, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for descry

Verb

in sense 1 Middle English descrien, descriven, descreven "to catch sight of, discover, discern," apparently developed from descriven (rarely descrien) "to describe, recount, characterize," borrowed from Anglo-French descrire, descriver, descrier "to describe, give an account of," going back to Latin dēscrībere "to represent by drawing, describe"; in sense 2 Middle English descrien "to announce, make known, reveal, betray," perhaps borrowed from Middle French descrier "to cry, make known," from des- de- + crier "to cry entry 1"

Note: The history of both semantic branches of this verb is difficult to characterize, given that the meanings of individual occurrences in Middle English are often not obvious and may overlap. Sense 2 is generally traced to Middle French, though evidence for the word in French texts is exiguous, and instances of this meaning contemporary with Middle English uses are lacking (see Dictionnaire du Moyen Français, on line). A putative descrier "to announce, proclaim" in the Grandes Chroniques de France (late 14th century) should be read descirer (modern déchirer) "to tear up" (referring to letters brought by Philip VI before the Parlement of Paris). There appears to be no connection of the Middle English word and Middle French descrier "to devalue, discredit," not attested before the 15th century (see decry).

Noun

derivative of descry entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about descry

Listen to Our Podcast about descry

Statistics for descry

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for descry

The first known use of descry was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on descry

What made you want to look up descry? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

playful or foolish behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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!