spy

verb
\ ˈspī \
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

This is attractive in, for example, cloud-hosting scenarios: while most people trust that the cloud host isn't malicious and isn't spying on sensitive data used on its systems, SGX removes the need to assume. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Intel’s SGX blown wide open by, you guessed it, a speculative execution attack," 14 Aug. 2018 President Trump has railed for weeks, without evidence, that the FBI source was spying on his campaign. Doug Criss, CNN, "5 things for June 7: Justice Department, Alice Johnson, China, immigration, airfare," 7 June 2018 During the search, a keen-eyed corporal, Darrell Werner, spied a 2-year-old child playing in the kitchen sink through a window. Vanesa Brashier, Houston Chronicle, "Cleveland mom says she is proud of daughter’s 9-1-1 call for help," 7 June 2018 On market days, Pulliam will spy upwards of 20 dogs with their humans at the market — sometimes more. Sarah Fritsche, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bay Area farmers’ markets having a ruff time keeping dogs out," 6 Apr. 2018 One example was the FBI’s use in 2016 of a fake dossier manufactured by the Democrats as a reason to spy on the Trump campaign. George Melloan, WSJ, "Is ‘First, Kill All the Lawyers’ the Democrats’ New Credo?," 12 Oct. 2018 The show’s one-hour premiere—which will air on Disney Channel, DisneyNOW and Disney Channel VOD, with subsequent airings on Disney XD, on October 7th—kicks off at the start of Xiono’s mission to spy on the First Order on a planet full of new aliens. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Watch the first trailer for Star Wars Resistance," 17 Aug. 2018 Some officials have compared the leak of which his accused to that of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who also revealed details about U.S. capabilities to spy on computers and phones around the world. Matt Zapotosky, chicagotribune.com, "Ex-CIA employee charged in major leak of agency hacking tools," 19 June 2018 The decades-old messaging system, called SS7, has little security, allowing intelligence agencies and some criminal gangs to spy on unwitting targets - based on nothing more than their cellphone numbers. Craig Timberg, Houston Chronicle, "How spies can use your cellphone to find you - and eavesdrop on your calls and texts, too," 30 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The bizarre case, combining elements of a murder mystery and a spy thriller, is stoking international tensions ahead of next week’s NATO summit, which will deal in part with worsening relations between Russia and the West. Washington Post, "UK town faces new reality: Another nerve agent poisoning," 6 July 2018 Since its launch, the publisher has released a number of serials in recent years, including The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a fantasy spy thriller set during the height of the Cold War. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Serial Box is experimenting with super-short fiction with Microfiction Mondays," 28 June 2018 Elon Musk is often compared to Marvel’s Tony Stark (sometimes even a spy thriller supervillain) and the latest news out of the company sounds like it was ripped from the script of a summer blockbuster. Gary Gastelu, Fox News, "Elon Musk says Tesla was sabotaged by disgruntled employee," 19 June 2018 Having originated in the U.K., the program is a dark spy thriller, starring Mark Strong as an MI6 assassin who is drawn out of retirement, returning to a sordid, violent life that's unknown to his new wife and children. Brian Lowry, CNN, "No, 'Deep State' is not a current-events show," 15 June 2018 There have been exceptions, of course, but the epic hero journeys, the buddy comedies, the spy thrillers—most of them revolved around dudes. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, "Ocean's 8 Is Good, but It's Time for New Stories, Not Just Gender-Swaps," 8 June 2018 On one level, that might be the greatest accomplishment of the series: getting millions of Americans in the 2018 to identify with a couple of Russian spies in a drama set in the 1980s. David Zurawik, baltimoresun.com, "'The Americans' ends its brilliant run in a culture drowning in talk of Russians, spies and Washington lies," 23 May 2018 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (July 27) The sixth installment of the Tom Cruise spy-thriller franchise sees the stunt king at odds with the CIA and in the crosshairs of foes and former friends. Eliza Berman, Time, "50 New Summer Movies to See in 2018," 11 May 2018 The new book, published Tuesday, unfolds like a spy thriller. James Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, "When the Cuban missile crisis almost became war," 17 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for spy

Last Updated

12 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spy

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

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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 \
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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with spy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spy

Spanish Central: Translation of spy

Nglish: Translation of spy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on spy

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