spy

1 of 2

verb

spied; spying

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 … goodsS. E. Morison

intransitive verb

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

spy

2 of 2

noun

plural spies
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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Then Bissell spied five young clerks standing at attention, with lit torches on long poles, wearing … shimmering black capes? Jon Grinspan, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Apr. 2024 Across the universe Astronomers have spied two streams of ancient stars that likely helped build the Milky Way galaxy billions of years ago. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 23 Mar. 2024 But to meet his destiny as a fur-trapping legend, Jean must contend with a wily beaver population — often spied in teams of two, carting logs toward a mysterious location — who harbor their own plans for survival-of-the-fittest domination. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 15 Mar. 2024 Read more WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange starts final battle to avoid US trial Tuesday culminates a fight against extradition for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as his lawyers attempt a final U.K. legal challenge to avoid being sent to the United States to face spying charges. USA TODAY, 20 Feb. 2024 Across the universe The far-reaching infrared gaze of the James Webb Space Telescope has spied a mysterious galaxy that existed when the universe was only 700 million years old — in its adolescence, astronomically speaking. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 10 Mar. 2024 Peering into the heart of the debris left behind by the star’s demise, astronomers led by Claes Fransson of Stockholm University in Sweden spied hints of ionized argon and sulfur—that is, evidence of elements that were so shocked by some external force that their electrons had been stripped away. Jonathan O'Callaghan, Scientific American, 23 Feb. 2024 Guests can expect to see spy the Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger movie car complete with James Bond gadgets, as well as a specific group gathering sponsored by Shelby International to celebrate the 101st birthday of Carroll Shelby. Michael Van Runkle, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 Hostile activity in cyberspace -- from spying to the planting of malware to infect and disrupt a country's infrastructure -- has become a hallmark of modern geopolitical rivalry. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, arkansasonline.com, 22 Feb. 2024
Noun
Then, a Russian agent contacted the soldier with an ultimatum: Switch sides and spy for Russia, or his family would suffer more harm. Kostiantyn Khudov, Washington Post, 3 Apr. 2024 That's after a new report linked Russia to mysterious neurological symptoms that have hit US diplomats and spies for nearly a decade. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 2 Apr. 2024 Sources told the Herald that many of the officers injured were involved in work related to Russia or were stationed in places where Russian spies could work with ease, like Cuba, China, Vietnam and most of Europe. Nora Gámez Torres, Miami Herald, 1 Apr. 2024 His killing in the seaside resort town of Villajoyosa last month has raised fears that Russia’s European spy networks continue to operate and are targeting enemies of the Kremlin, despite concerted efforts to dismantle them after Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022. José Bautista, New York Times, 31 Mar. 2024 Cutting between Vietnam and the U.S., the trailer shows North Vietnamese spy Captain (played by Hoa Xuande) encountering the likes of Sandra Oh and Downey Jr., 58, who plays four antagonistic roles in the limited series. Brendan Le, Peoplemag, 29 Mar. 2024 The country’s police forces range from public security departments and neighborhood patrols to more heavy-handed state security and paramilitary forces as well as a highly secretive civilian spy agency. Jessie Yeung, CNN, 29 Mar. 2024 Monitoring the activities of foreign diplomats, officials and spies is the jurisdiction of federal agencies working in the secretive realm of counterintelligence. Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, 22 Mar. 2024 They were brought together when their native village was destroyed by shogunate spies, and torn apart again in the tutorial level during an assassination mission gone awry. Katcy Stephan, Variety, 21 Mar. 2024

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Verb

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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near spy

Cite this Entry

“Spy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spy. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

spy

1 of 2 verb
spied; spying
1
: to watch, inspect, or examine secretly : act as a spy
2
: to catch sight of : see
spied a friend in the crowd

spy

2 of 2 noun
plural spies
1
: one that watches the movement or actions of others especially in secret
2
: a person who tries secretly to obtain information for one country in the territory of another usually unfriendly country

More from Merriam-Webster on spy

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