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

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

But let’s be clear: Those who spy and analyze North Korea for a living believe North Korea won’t give up its nuclear weapons. Alex Ward, Vox, "Let’s just say it looks like North Korea is lying about giving up its nukes.," 2 July 2018 But in recent weeks, privacy advocates have seen torrential gains, at a rate perhaps not matched since Edward Snowden revealed how the National Security Agency spied on millions of US citizens in 2013. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "Good News! The Privacy Wins Keep Coming," 27 June 2018 By the time Dolores spied on Teddy refusing to execute prisoners as commanded, the writing was very much on the wall. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Westworld': Evan Rachel Wood Explains That "Horrible" Twist," 22 May 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Ghafoor's also dismissed allegations raised on Tuesday by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who accused the Pakistani spy agency of pressuring one of his ruling party's candidates to change political loyalties. Munir Ahmed, Fox News, "Pakistan army to deploy 371,388 troops for July 25 elections," 10 July 2018 Ghafoor also dismissed allegations raised on Tuesday by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who accused the Pakistani spy agency of pressuring one of his ruling party’s candidates to change political loyalties. Washington Post, "Suicide bomber kills 12 in attack on Pakistan election rally," 10 July 2018 Pyongyang says the women were abducted by Seoul’s spy agency and has demanded their return. ... Andrew Jeong, WSJ, "U.N. Official Seeks Inquiry Into Defection of North Korean Waitresses," 10 July 2018 The officials insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive assessments about a country that has long been one of the most difficult targets for spy agencies to penetrate. Ellen Nakashima And Joby Warrick, chicagotribune.com, "Evidence suggests North Korea is plotting to keep its nuclear arsenal," 1 July 2018 In May, Netanyahu announced that the Mossad spy agency had stolen tens of thousands of sensitive nuclear documents from archenemy Iran. BostonGlobe.com, "Wife of Benjamin Netanyahu charged with fraud, breach of trust," 21 June 2018 The National Intelligence Services—the South Korean spy agency—has a history of overstepping its mandate, previously attempting to influence elections through online campaigns and monitoring dissidents and government opponents. Binaifer Nowrojee, Time, "Don't Forget the Dark Side of Living in South Korea," 11 June 2018 Later stories, including those in The Washington Post, disclosed other snooping and how U.S. and British spy agencies had accessed information from cables carrying the world’s telephone and internet traffic. Deb Riechmann, The Seattle Times, "US expects fallout from Snowden leaks for years to come," 3 June 2018 That adds to a report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a Pentagon spy agency, which concludes North Korea hopes to hold on to some of its stockpile, purposefully hiding parts of it from the United States and others. Alex Ward, Vox, "Let’s just say it looks like North Korea is lying about giving up its nukes.," 2 July 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

Phrases Related to spy

spy on

spy out

spy out the land

Statistics for spy

Last Updated

24 Sep 2018

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 \
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

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

exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

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!