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

Photo: George Downs/The Wall Street Journal BEIJING—Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, addressing an irritant in relations with the U.S., said that China’s government doesn’t ask companies to spy on its behalf and pledged not to do so in the future. Chun Han Wong, WSJ, "China Doesn’t and Won’t Instruct Companies to Spy, Premier Vows," 15 Mar. 2019 One, and then an eventual follower, a sighting that caused us to race into the bedroom to spy on the cats and catch them entering the Litter Robot. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "How Much Litter Box Do You Really Get for $500?," 23 Jan. 2019 In 2013, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden released documents purportedly showing that the agency had tapped U.N. headquarters, and was able to spy on the institution’s internal communications system. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Annual UN gathering a hotbed for spies, many from US adversaries," 26 Sep. 2018 The laptop's previous owner has left plenty of credentials and saved passwords on this machine, which new owner Mattias (Colin Woodell) eventually decides to spy on. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Unfriended: Dark Web wardrives straight into the bad-tech-film toilet," 20 July 2018 Robotic fish will likely play a large role in that understanding—more realistic robots have already been used to spy on the real thing. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Robotic Fish Are About to Take to the Water All Across the World," 4 Feb. 2019 An Afghan-German man was arrested last week in connection with spying on Germany’s military. Bojan Pancevski, WSJ, "Under U.S. Pressure, Germany Bans Iranian Airline," 21 Jan. 2019 Two former senior members of the finance police, both former members of Italian intelligence, have been charged with spying on prosecutors in exchange for bribes. Manfred Manera, Newsweek, "Civil War in Venice as Corruption Scandal Grows," 18 July 2014 Of course, there are also some potential opportunities for misuse, as a tiny, foldable drone could also just as likely be sent to spy in small crevices. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "A shape-shifting drone suggests the future of rescue missions," 20 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Two Soviet spies, Philip and Elizabeth (played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), have been doing their dirty work on American soil and blending in effortlessly with American culture. Mike Ayers, Billboard, "'The Americans' Showrunners Pick the Series' 8 Best Musical Moments," 30 May 2018 But the late-March poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil led the Trump administration to trigger the first round of the economic sanctions on that menu and to expel 60 diplomats in coordination with the European allies. The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Trump put the brakes on new Russian sanctions, reversing Haley's announcement," 17 Apr. 2018 Sarah Jane Smith, a teenage Confederate spy, had gathered intelligence that allowed Southern forces to surprise and kill two dozen Union cavalrymen in southeast Missouri. Kelly Scott Franklin, WSJ, "‘Women’s War’ Review: The Battle Seen From Both Sides," 12 Apr. 2019 Women love spy stories—the faction of the Internet which demands Gillian Anderson be cast as the new James Bond is proof enough. Jill Gutowitz, Glamour, "Killing Eve Is Made for Women By Women, and It Shows," 8 Apr. 2019 The Duke of Cambridge just completed a top-secret internship with the U.K.’s national security and intelligence agencies, shadowing spies and learning about the extraordinary efforts made to protect the country and its allies. Omid Scobie, Harper's BAZAAR, "Inside Prince William's Top Secret Internship at Britain's Intelligence Agencies," 6 Apr. 2019 As a Carrancista spy, Herrera worked as a bartender in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Teen Vogue, "Mexican Revolutionary Petra Herrera Posed as a Man to Fight for Her Country," 1 Apr. 2019 For jewelry spies however, the focus of the evening was less on the colorful Lagerfeld backdrops and more on the triple strand of Van Cleef & Arpels cultured pearls worn by Princess Caroline. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Princess Caroline Wore Her Mother Grace Kelly's Pearls for the First Time Since Her Death," 1 Apr. 2019 Bradley Cooper's star has been steadily growing since his unforgettable performance in Jennifer Garner's spy TV show Alias. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Bradley Cooper's Net Worth Will Make Your Jaw Drop," 31 Mar. 2019

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

7 May 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 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

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

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