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 outspy 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 Business)Google Chrome extensions downloaded more than 32 million times were used to spy on the popular browser's users in a massive global surveillance campaign, according to a new report. Rishi Iyengar, CNN, "Google Chrome users may have been impacted by a massive spying campaign, report says," 18 June 2020 From its portrayals of work, love, and family, the HBO show is almost too real — who gave Rae permission to spy on me like this? Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, "Hot Insecure Take: Molly And Issa Have Reached The End Of The Road," 15 June 2020 In the mid-1960s, the MPD launched a domestic intelligence unit to spy not just on activists, but also on teachers’ meetings, a college black student union and labor organizers. Wendi C. Thomas, ProPublica, "The Police Have Been Spying on Black Reporters and Activists for Years. I Know Because I’m One of Them.," 9 June 2020 Putting Simmons in the middle of the defense could still enable the Cards to play a bunch of imbalanced defenses, with Simmons still able to spy or cover or blitz. Jeremy Cluff, azcentral, "NFL power rankings: Arizona Cardinals surge in Peter King's 2020 NFL rankings," 5 June 2020 Relying on peer-to-peer technology made the project easy to scale and means Siempre has no way of spying on your video calls. Louise Matsakis, Wired, "Zoom Not Cutting It for You? Try Exploring a Virtual World," 3 May 2020 This type of centralization of spying on American people — that's not freedom. Kerry Picket, Washington Examiner, "Use of cellphone data to battle coronavirus splits House Republicans," 16 Apr. 2020 Further Reading Huawei fires back, points to US’ history of spying on phone networks Huawei in December sued the FCC in an attempt to stop the ban, but a US District Court judge ruled in favor of the FCC. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Congress gives small ISPs $1 billion to rip out Huawei, ZTE network gear," 28 Feb. 2020 Mexican national held in Florida, accused of spying on US for Russia. Fox News, "DOJ: Barr has 'no plans to resign' over Trump tweets; Trump blasted over Blagojevich commutation," 19 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Some governments, such as Britain’s, have reportedly been warned by spy agencies to avoid secret discussions about China on Zoom. The Economist, "Schumpeter Can Zoom be trusted with users’ secrets?," 20 June 2020 Captain Chris Jackson reports spy baiting is the way to go for large spotted bass at Lewis Smith Lake, with many fish hanging at 60 feet and more. Frank Sargeant, al, "Friday Fishing Report," 19 June 2020 Such a restriction would be a relief to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who helped broker a deal to tighten intelligence-sharing and military cooperation with India but regards Huawei as a Trojan horse for Beijing’s spy services. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Border violence could spur India to help US counter China," 18 June 2020 Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, Robert Maxwell, was widely believed to be an Israeli spy. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "Letting Jeffrey Epstein’s Pals Off the Hook," 17 June 2020 By measuring the tiny changes in light output from the bulb that those vibrations cause, the researchers show that a spy can pick up sound clearly enough to discern the contents of conversations or even recognize a piece of music. Andy Greenberg, Wired, "Spies Can Eavesdrop by Watching a Light Bulb's Vibrations," 12 June 2020 John Downer Productions, a team that is part of the Spy in the Wild series on PBS, found some interesting new facts about Silverback Mountain gorillas in Uganda thanks to their unique spy camera, according to Matador Network. Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure, "This Baby Gorilla Is Actually a Robot — and It’s Capturing Amazing Footage of Real Gorillas in the Wild," 10 June 2020 In the two decades after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the CIA and other spy agencies made terrorism their top priority, with the goal of preventing another 9/11. Ken Dilanian, NBC News, "Outbreak may transform the way America's spies do their jobs," 6 June 2020 The carmaker, known as the preferred ride of fictional spy James Bond, is also changing its CEO, hiring Tobias Moers away from Mercedes-AMG last month. Eoin Mcsweeney, CNN, "Bentley, Aston Martin and McLaren are slashing thousands of jobs," 5 June 2020

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

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Spy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spy. Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for spy

spy

verb
How to pronounce spy (audio)

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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