es·​pi·​o·​nage ˈe-spē-ə-ˌnäzh How to pronounce espionage (audio) -ˌnäj How to pronounce espionage (audio)
 Canadian also  -ˌnazh;
: the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company
industrial espionage

Examples of espionage in a Sentence

He was charged with several counts of espionage. the acts of espionage on behalf of the Confederacy carried on by Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow
Recent Examples on the Web Treason, which includes espionage and providing support or intelligence to an entity working against the security interests of the Russian state, is a serious offense in Russia and punishable with a jail term of up to 20 years. Robert Hart, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2024 Beijing makes no secret of its intent to displace Washington as the motor that drives the world’s economies—or of its willingness to use subsidies, espionage, and coercion to achieve this end. Shannon K. O’Neil, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 The White House offered to trade a large number of Russian nationals detained on espionage charges abroad in exchange for the release of Gershkovich and fellow American Paul Whelan, two people familiar with the matter told CNN in December, but the offer was not accepted. Nathan Hodge, CNN, 8 Feb. 2024 Cheng, an anchor for an English-language state broadcaster, was also found guilty on charges of espionage during a trial held behind closed doors. Michael E. Miller, Washington Post, 5 Feb. 2024 Schulte, who denied the allegations, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the espionage and also for possessing thousands of child abuse images. Matt Burgess, WIRED, 3 Feb. 2024 His crimes included espionage, computer hacking, contempt of court, making false statements to the FBI and child pornography. Kirsty Hatcher, Peoplemag, 2 Feb. 2024 The American actor, singer, and comedian attended the New York premiere of his new espionage series Mr. & Mrs. Smith on Tuesday wearing the latest designs from Fear of God (FOG). Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 2 Feb. 2024 There is the Ministry of State Security, which is responsible for external espionage and domestic counterintelligence. Minxin Pei, Foreign Affairs, 6 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'espionage.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French espionnage, from Middle French, from espionner to spy, from espion spy, from Old Italian spione, from spia, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German spehōn to spy — more at spy

First Known Use

1793, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of espionage was in 1793

Dictionary Entries Near espionage

Cite this Entry

“Espionage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


es·​pi·​o·​nage ˈes-pē-ə-ˌnäzh How to pronounce espionage (audio) -näj How to pronounce espionage (audio)
: the practice of spying : the use of spies

Legal Definition


es·​pi·​o·​nage ˈes-pē-ə-ˌnäzh, -ˌnäj, -nij How to pronounce espionage (audio)
: the practice of gathering, transmitting, or losing through gross negligence information relating to the defense of the U.S. with the intent that or with reason to believe that the information will be used to the injury of the U.S. or the advantage of a foreign nation

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