spy

1 of 2

verb

spied; spying

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 … goodsS. E. Morison

intransitive verb

1
: to observe or search for something : look
2
: to watch secretly as a spy

spy

2 of 2

noun

plural spies
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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
He had been accused of spying for a country China had not publicly identified and the details of the case against him are unknown. Reuters, NBC News, 5 Feb. 2024 The disclosure probably won’t surprise anyone, given that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the agency’s spying activities back in 2013. Michael Kan, PCMAG, 26 Jan. 2024 The company has faced spying allegations for its ties to a mobile phone app identified as spyware. Jon Gambrell, Quartz, 13 Feb. 2024 Webb’s mid-infrared and near-infrared cameras spied sparkling blue stars and glowing red and orange gas that showcase the iconic spiral structure of the galaxies. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 3 Feb. 2024 Looking over my shoulder, my son spied a small white box in my carry-on. Katie James Watkinson, Condé Nast Traveler, 26 Jan. 2024 Spectacular stars and Wolf Moon: What to spy in January’s night skies What is a meteor shower? Jennifer Hassan, Washington Post, 3 Jan. 2024 In early 2023, for example, British officials arrested five Bulgarians who were accused of spying for Russia, including in an effort to keep tabs on Russian exiles in London. Andrei Soldatov, Foreign Affairs, 27 Dec. 2023 The revelation that Flannery is in fact not a spying operation but a developer looking to develop has done little to quell anxiety but instead turned one kind of fear into another. Coral Murphy Marcos, New York Times, 1 Dec. 2023
Noun
Enrique Garcia, who defected to the U.S. in the 1990s, also caught wind of the clandestine spy ring while running Cuban agents in Latin America. Joshua Goodman, Fortune, 15 Feb. 2024 Damon returned to the role for 2016's Jason Bourne, but in 2012, Jeremy Renner and Edward Norton starred in 2012's The Bourne Legacy, a spinoff of the series that followed Renner's own spy character Aaron Cross. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 15 Feb. 2024 The House Judiciary Committee’s amendment, which US spy agencies oppose, would strengthen these protective efforts far beyond the remit of the FTC Act. Dell Cameron Andrew Couts, WIRED, 14 Feb. 2024 The case has put a spotlight on Cuba's spy agency, which is considered one of the most effective in the world. Caitlin Yilek, CBS News, 14 Feb. 2024 In at least nine federal child exploitation investigations between 2018 and 2023 reviewed by Forbes, federal agents showed how spy cams purchased from Amazon and eBay had been used to film minors in their bedrooms, bathrooms or in one case the toilets of a music school. Danielle Chemtob, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 Her novels are actually hazy memories of her spy exploits. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, 13 Feb. 2024 Francesca Sloane loves those scenes in spy movies when a man and a woman on the run evade their pursuers with an impromptu kiss. Reggie Ugwu, New York Times, 12 Feb. 2024 Universal is distributing the globe-trotting spy film, and Apple produced and financed it for $200 million. Jordan Moreau, Variety, 2 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'spy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near spy

Cite this Entry

“Spy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spy. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

spy

1 of 2 verb
spied; spying
1
: to watch, inspect, or examine secretly : act as a spy
2
: to catch sight of : see
spied a friend in the crowd

spy

2 of 2 noun
plural spies
1
: one that watches the movement or actions of others especially in secret
2
: a person who tries secretly to obtain information for one country in the territory of another usually unfriendly country

More from Merriam-Webster on spy

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