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 During the Obama administration, top U.S. negotiator Todd Stern used the National Security Administration to spy on other countries’ delegations to gain advanced intel on their negotiating in climate talks leading up to Paris. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "The U.S. Is Now Officially Out of the Paris Agreement," 4 Nov. 2020 In 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek broke the story of a rogue JP Morgan Chase employee who had used Palantir’s software to spy on colleagues, reading their emails and tracking their movements. Michael Steinberger, New York Times, "Does Palantir See Too Much?," 21 Oct. 2020 The same technology used by activists to foment social change was being used by governments to spy on their citizens and for corporations and political campaigns to carry out different kinds of experiments. Joan Donovan, Scientific American, "Trolling for Truth on Social Media," 12 Oct. 2020 Schulte worked as a coder at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where some of the CIA's digital sleuths design computer code to spy on foreign adversaries. Larry Neumeister, Star Tribune, "June retrial date set for ex-CIA engineer in leak case," 4 Nov. 2020 As with the international economic powers legislation, Congress dutifully provided a measure, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), that purported to rein in the executive’s power to spy on citizens while merely legalizing it. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's Magazine, "The Enemies Briefcase," 27 Oct. 2020 He was taught the guitar by Michael Meeropol, the older son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to spy for the Soviet Union and executed. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Daniel Menaker, Book Editor Who Wrote With Wit, Dies at 79," 27 Oct. 2020 The articles focused on Mr. Lindberg’s insurance empire and his use of surveillance operatives to spy on women. Mark Maremont, WSJ, "Insurance Executive Ordered to Prison on Seven-Year Sentence," 8 Oct. 2020 In the 1960s, the Alabama Legislature funded two commissions to spy on civil rights activists and manufacture propaganda against the movement. Brian Lyman, USA TODAY, "Alabama governor apologizes to survivor of 1963 KKK church bombing that killed four Black girls," 1 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Whether or not there was a real Russian spy who went by that name is dependent on who’s doing the telling. Todd Martens, chicagotribune.com, "Review: ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’: Patriot games with a dose of guilt," 26 Nov. 2020 Learn about the Jewish baseball player who was an American spy, the boy from a Bronx High School who changed his name and started a fashion empire, the crime boss who could have been head of General Motors, and many more. courant.com, "Community News For The West Hartford Edition," 25 Nov. 2020 Another female first, Haines is Biden’s choice for top spy. Los Angeles Times, "Essential Politics: Biden stocks his Cabinet with old favorites," 25 Nov. 2020 The reports show how closely the e-commerce leviathan tracks warehouse workers‘ union-organizing efforts, including by employing private investigators from spy-for-hire agency Pinkerton. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "1-in-5 Fortune 500 companies still use risky Chinese tech after U.S. ban," 24 Nov. 2020 For the performance, Browne wanted to give his spy vibe a super-sleek finish. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Maluma on His Thom Browne Performance Look For the American Music Awards," 23 Nov. 2020 In addition to the story's ten missions, there are two additional side missions, one of which involves tracking a spy helping Perseus set up a network within the U.S. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, "'Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War' review: A spy game worthy of your time, regardless of your video game system," 13 Nov. 2020 The spy offered his own methods for obtaining classified intelligence as a possible roadmap for the President-elect. Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker, "Biden Could Receive Classified Intelligence Just by Hanging Out in Mar-a-Lago Dining Room," 12 Nov. 2020 The Iranian government, however, has called Alinejad a spy and a traitor. Justin Sherman, Wired, "Trump's Un-American Failure to Protect Internet Freedom," 22 Oct. 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

28 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Spy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spy. Accessed 5 Dec. 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

Nglish: Translation of spy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spy for Arabic Speakers

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