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 … goods S. 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

Example Sentences

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
Sella enlisted Pollard to spy for Israel, then fled the U.S. after Pollard was arrested in 1985. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 2 Sep. 2021 That includes monitoring workers' social media, checking key cards or ID badges and using cameras to spy on workers. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, 1 Nov. 2022 So when Mahomes fled, linebacker Matt Milano — able to spy the QB because seven teammates were defending Mahomes’ five potential targets — had a clear lane to attack him in the open field. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Oct. 2022 Future telescopes will also be able to spy more details within the atmospheric layers of exoplanets, including rocky ones similar to Earth, to unlock the mysteries of unusual worlds across the galaxy. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 13 Oct. 2022 Camilo is part of a swarm of scientists from six St. Louis institutions who have fanned out across their city to spy on bees and other pollinators. WIRED, 11 Oct. 2022 The lithe and lively barracuda is a bucket-list-worthy animal to spy while snorkelling or diving in the park. Sandra Macgregor, Forbes, 10 Oct. 2022 Russia has kept up that tradition with midget submarines and spy submarines like the Belgorod, but Sutton doesn’t believe these could have been used in the incident. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 3 Oct. 2022 Baugh then recruited Harville to go with him to Boston to spy on the couple, authorities say. CBS News, 29 Sep. 2022
Noun
The old man explained that this proved something about the spy’s character, echoing the same idea expressed in Psalms. Matti Friedman, Smithsonian Magazine, 7 Dec. 2022 Herron loves Ho, the spy writer lost in a world of his own invention. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 28 Nov. 2022 And Nakia is the mother of the future King T’Challa, and a more than worthy spy ready to protect her country at any time. Chris Smith, BGR, 27 Nov. 2022 He’s Jake Turner, a mega-successful spy novelist who is handsome, witty and stubbornly alone. Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov. 2022 The spy’s 60th anniversary, happening this year, certainly calls for celebration, and who better to start the festivities than Omega, the company that’s been the official watch of 007 since 1995’s GoldenEye. Cait Bazemore, Robb Report, 23 Nov. 2022 Andor centers on Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the spy who helped steal the Death Star plans in Rogue One that Luke would use to destroy the Empire’s greatest weapon in A New Hope. Eliana Dockterman, Time, 23 Nov. 2022 In June, a Russian spy tried to secure an internship at the International Criminal Court under the guise of being a Brazilian citizen, according to Dutch intelligence. Max Colchester, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2022 The consensus among defense media was that this mystery craft must be a top-secret RQ-180 stealth drone, used for spy missions over the most sensitive areas—like Iran, other parts of the Middle East, and areas close to China. David Hambling, Popular Mechanics, 15 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

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 4 Dec. 2022.

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

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