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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Seeing the Roadster at its present distance, just outside the orbit of Mars, is similar to Hubble spying a dark, 15-km-wide lump of rock in the Kuiper Belt, which is outside the orbit of Neptune. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster reaches its farthest point from the Sun," 8 Nov. 2018 But there’s no shutter or slide to assuage the fears of those worried about hackers spying on them without their knowledge. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "HP Spectre x360 15 (2018) hands on: HP's convertible notebook leaps to six cores," 23 Oct. 2018 Go to spy the coast and the sea, take in a tranquil moment, and contemplate an earlier era of seafaring navigation. Hannah Seligson, Town & Country, "T&C Travel Guide: Watch Hill, Rhode Island," 12 June 2018 In recent days, Trump has seized on the reports about Halper's role in the Russia probe, suggesting in tweets that the FBI improperly spied on his campaign. Drew Broach, NOLA.com, "After Texas school shooting, Steve Scalise says removing prayer 'one of the problems': report," 22 May 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Relations between China and New Zealand have been strained in recent months after New Zealand’s spy agency in November halted mobile company Spark from using Huawei equipment in its planned 5G upgrade. Nick Perry, The Seattle Times, "Registration mistake turned back New Zealand flight to China," 11 Feb. 2019 India denies Jadhav is a spy and has asked the world court to order his release because he was denied access to consular assistance, in breach of an international treaty, and not allowed to choose his own defense lawyer at trial. Mike Corder, The Seattle Times, "Pakistan says India using UN court for ‘political theater’," 19 Feb. 2019 Sater is an American spy with a criminal record Multiple profiles of Sater make one thing jaw-droppingly clear: Sater is an important, yet intentionally unheralded, figure in US national security. Alex Ward, Vox, "Felix Sater, the spy, criminal, and mafia-linked business executive tied to Trump, explained," 6 Dec. 2018 Jonas Parello-Plesner writes about the time that China used LinkedIn in an effort to recruit him as a spy: Back in 2011-2012, I was asked to connect over LinkedIn by a handsome Chinese woman representing a recruitment company, DRHR, in China. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Why social media is friend to far-right politicians around the world," 30 Oct. 2018 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about spy

Statistics for spy

Last Updated

26 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spy

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

What made you want to look up spy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a flaw that causes the downfall of a hero

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!