spy

verb
\ ˈspī \
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

When the WikiLeaks spying scandal broke, there was nothing but strong support from Australia. Tony Abbott, WSJ, "An Ally Sizes Up Donald Trump," 13 July 2018 America's largest retailer has patented surveillance technology that could essentially spy on cashiers and customers by collecting audio data in stores. Jason Silverstein, CBS News, "Walmart patents audio surveillance technology to record customers and employees," 13 July 2018 This has given rise to conspiracy theories that apps are often spying on us without our knowledge or consent. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "Your Android Apps Are (Probably) Not Snooping on You, a New Study Says," 3 July 2018 The effect was like peering into a cave and spying a campfire at the far end. Mary Carole Mccauley, baltimoresun.com, "Behind the magic of Harry Houdini at the Jewish Museum of Maryland," 29 June 2018 Attorney General Christian Porter told Parliament on Tuesday the bills include the most significant counter-spying reforms in Australia since the 1970s. Rod Mcguirk, The Christian Science Monitor, "Australia approves bill to make foreign influence on politics more transparent," 26 June 2018 The statement says the audio is used solely to identify establishments that broadcast games without a license and that the app takes special precautions to prevent it from spying on end users. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "This app in Google Play wants to use phone mics to enforce copyrights," 12 June 2018 President Trump has also claimed the feds spied on his campaign with an informant. Rob Tornoe, Philly.com, "Ex-Fox News analyst rips Sean Hannity and calls the network a 'destructive propaganda machine'," 7 June 2018 The three-day hunt by Jeremy Fransen and Bea Rodriguez to find their pet ended happily when the husband and wife spied their beloved tortoise wandering in a bus parking lot near their apartment. Suzanne Baker, Naperville Sun, "Naperville couple finds their lost pet tortoise, rescues another," 5 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Pine is currently filming Wonder Woman 1984 and will also co-star alongside Michelle Williams in the Mark Gordon Company’s spy thriller All The Old Knives. Melania Hidalgo, PEOPLE.com, "London Love! Chris Pine and Annabelle Wallis Spotted Holding Hands For the First Time," 5 July 2018 Kids Quest for ages 4-11 challenges the youngsters to help Old King Coal’s spies find a prince and princess, and costs $5 per day. Sheryl Devore, Lake County News-Sun, "Take a day trip to the past at Bristol Renaissance Faire," 25 June 2018 Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45, were sickened on June 30 in a town not far from Salisbury, where British authorities say a Russian ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in March. Gregory Katz, chicagotribune.com, "Bottle containing nerve agent found in home of poisoned man in U.K., police say," 13 July 2018 Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45, were sickened on June 30 in a town not far from Salisbury, where British authorities say a Russian ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in March. Fox News, "UK police confirm source of Novichok poisoning," 13 July 2018 Oh, who stars on BBC America's Killing Eve as a MI5 spy, has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy five times before. Patrick Shanley, The Hollywood Reporter, "Emmys: Sandra Oh Makes History as First Woman of Asian Descent Nominated for Lead Actress in Drama Series," 12 July 2018 The piece honoring the Coventry native, who was executed as a spy by the British at age 21 during the American Revolution, stands near the museum’s castle-like main entrance. Susan Dunne, courant.com, "The Sculptures Outside The Wadsworth, Explained," 9 July 2018 Naomi Campbell clad in Jean Paul Gaultier channeled a femme-fatale spy, Ashley Graham in Alexander McQueen went sultry and seductive, and Emily Ratajkowski paired hers with chainmail. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "Naomi Campbell, Ashley Graham, and More of the Best Dressed at the Paris Couture Shows," 6 July 2018 The man who, it is said, liked to smile and place a finger to his lips when asked about his life as a spy, probably wouldn’t tell you. Michael O’sullivan, kansascity, "Paul Rudd’s ‘The Catcher Was a Spy’ bobbles a fascinating real-life story," 28 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.

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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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Learn More about spy

Phrases Related to spy

spy on

spy out

spy out the land

Statistics for spy

Last Updated

10 Sep 2018

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 \
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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Comments on spy

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