spy

verb
\ ˈspī How to pronounce spy (audio) \
spied; spying

Definition of spy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes
2 : to catch sight of : see
3 : to search or look for intensively usually used with out spy out places fit for vending … goods— S. E. Morison

intransitive verb

1 : to observe or search for something : look
2 : to watch secretly as a spy

spy

noun
plural spies

Definition of spy (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one that spies:
a : one who keeps secret watch on a person or thing to obtain information
b : a person employed by one nation to secretly convey classified information of strategic importance to another nation also : a person who conveys the trade secrets of one company to another
2 : an act of spying

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Examples of spy in a Sentence

Verb They were accused of spying for a foreign government. I spy a motel off in the distance, so let's spend the night there. Noun He was a spy for the CIA. My coworker is a spy for the boss.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Fridrich has said the FBI asked him if Warner was paranoid about 5G technology being used to spy on people. Tyler Van Dyke, Washington Examiner, "FBI confirms Anthony Warner was Nashville bomber," 27 Dec. 2020 The book is a James Bond parody about his lesbian twin sister, Jane Bond, who is tapped by Her Majesty to spy in his place when he is sent to rehab. Aya De León, Harper's BAZAAR, "Spy Novels Made Me a Better Black Woman Writer," 12 Jan. 2021 The malware infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously control the smartphone’s microphones and cameras, allowing hackers to spy on reporters’ face-to-face meetings with sources. Isabel Debre, The Christian Science Monitor, "Al-Jazeera reporters' phones hacked using Israeli firm's spyware," 21 Dec. 2020 The malware infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously control the smartphone’s microphones and cameras, allowing hackers to spy on reporters’ face-to-face meetings with sources. Bloomberg.com, "Report: Government Spyware Targets Phones of Al-Jazeera Reporters," 20 Dec. 2020 Because states routinely spy on one another—friends and foes alike—there are a very limited number of credible punishments states can use to threaten others into not spying. Erica Borghard, Wired, "Russia's Hack Wasn't Cyberwar. That Complicates US Strategy," 17 Dec. 2020 Visitors may now spy the small animals as part of the park’s Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, near the warden’s outpost, Walt Disney World says. Dewayne Bevil, orlandosentinel.com, "Disney: Nigerian dwarf goats join Animal Kingdom’s lineup," 17 Dec. 2020 Abusers have long used tech to spy on victims, but the pandemic has given them greater opportunities than ever before. Mélissa Godin, Time, "How Domestic Abusers Have Exploited Technology During the Pandemic," 31 Dec. 2020 The New York Post is reporting agents are investigating whether Warner was paranoid about 5G technology being used to spy on Americans. Leada Gore | Lgore@al.com, al, "Nashville bomb AT&T outage: 65% service restored; Anthony Quinn Warner is ‘person of interest’," 27 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Civil liberties activists often say it’s dangerous for even friendly spy agencies to develop and use cyber weapons, and here’s why. David Meyer, Fortune, "Jeff Immelt gives his side of the GE story," 23 Feb. 2021 Skunk Works has built several drones, including the DarkStar spy drone pictured above. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Skunk Works Is About to Test a Secret New Aircraft Called 'Speed Racer'," 18 Feb. 2021 That failed plot and another in Denmark prompted the European Union in 2019 to impose sanctions on Iran’s external spy service, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. New York Times, "In a Dangerous Game of Cat and Mouse, Iran Eyes New Targets in Africa," 15 Feb. 2021 On Friday, Donald Glover took to his Instagram Stories (captured here by fan page @thechildishdon) to announce an upcoming show based on the 2005 Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie spy comedy for Amazon Prime Video and New Regency, set to debut next year. Halle Kiefer, Vulture, "Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge Are Mr. & Mrs. Smith In New Amazon Series," 13 Feb. 2021 The party was targeted by the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro spy program. Zoe Guy, Marie Claire, "The True Story Behind 'Judas and the Black Messiah'," 12 Feb. 2021 The film nicely sends up spy capers, Broadway and buddy movies and is a lot like its two leading characters: Kindly, a little silly and as sweet as a candy-colored drink at the pool bar. Mark Kennedy, Star Tribune, "Review: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo go on a beach romp," 11 Feb. 2021 By the decade after September 11, its arsenal of spy technologies had grown to galactic proportions. Arthur Holland Michel, Wired, "There Are Spying Eyes Everywhere—and Now They Share a Brain," 4 Feb. 2021 But a deportation still seemed like spy-movie stuff. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The New Yorker, "Waking Up from the American Dream," 18 Jan. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spy.' 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 spy

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for spy

Verb

Middle English spien, from Anglo-French espier, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German spehōn to spy; akin to Latin specere to look, look at, Greek skeptesthai & skopein to watch, look at, consider

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Time Traveler for spy

Time Traveler

The first known use of spy was in the 13th century

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Statistics for spy

Last Updated

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Spy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spy. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for spy

spy

verb

English Language Learners Definition of spy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to try secretly to get information about a country, organization, etc. : to act as a spy
: to see or notice (someone or something)

spy

noun

English Language Learners Definition of spy (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who tries secretly to get information about a country or organization for another country or organization
: someone who secretly watches the movement or actions of other people

spy

verb
\ ˈspī How to pronounce spy (audio) \
spied; spying

Kids Definition of spy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to watch secretly Agents spied on the enemy.
2 : to catch sight of : see He circled the city once, looking for a music store. Suddenly he spied one.— E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan

spy

noun
plural spies

Kids Definition of spy (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a person who watches the movement or actions of others especially in secret
2 : a person who tries secretly to get information especially about a country or organization for another country or organization

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More from Merriam-Webster on spy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spy

Nglish: Translation of spy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spy for Arabic Speakers

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