\ 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 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


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

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 Adams said signs are posted in her neighborhood and the city of Huntsville last year announced plans to post signs along Haysland Road – another popular spot to spy an alligator. Paul Gattis | Pgattis@al.com, al, 9 June 2022 In 2019, Mike Davidson, the former VP of Design at Twitter, blogged about how a luxury email client was helping its users spy on consumers via email tracking—a feature that was built-in to the product. Mikael Berner, Forbes, 9 June 2022 China continues to hack into major telecommunication companies in an effort to spy on users, according to a new warning from the US government. Michael Kan, PCMAG, 8 June 2022 Section 702 was passed into law in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to enable the U.S. to spy on non-Americans overseas. Dustin Volz, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 El later uses her powers to spy on Mike and Billy, and realizes Billy is missing. Milan Polk, Men's Health, 26 May 2022 Each side flies surveillance drones to spy on the other and to identify targets to shell. Sudarsan Raghavan, Anchorage Daily News, 21 May 2022 Each side flies surveillance drones to spy on the other and to identify targets to shell. Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, 21 May 2022 Min-jae proceeds to spy on his new boss, but its hard not to like Kang-yoon or be impressed by the aura of success that surrounds him. Joan Macdonald, Forbes, 16 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Set in Miami, it’s about a spy — played with masterful irony and cool charm by Jeffrey Donovan — who has been fired and blacklisted without knowing why. Matthew Gilbert, BostonGlobe.com, 9 June 2022 The famously staid queen surprised audiences at the 2012 London Olympic Games by appearing in a dramatic opening segment alongside Britain’s most famous spy, James Bond, played by actor Daniel Craig. Washington Post, 31 May 2022 In some fish species, for example, observer males spy on gladiatorial contests, remember who won, and avoid the successful fish, restricting their challenges to previous losers. David P. Barash, WSJ, 17 May 2022 When his daughter is kidnapped while in Paris, former spy (Liam Neeson) takes matters into his own hands and sets out to find her at any cost. Chaise Sanders, Country Living, 13 May 2022 Kremlin agents had just been accused of poisoning a former Russian spy, Sergei V. Skripal, on British soil, igniting furious calls for more sanctions against Russia. New York Times, 12 May 2022 The entertainer, spy, activist and all-around it-girl will be at the center of an upcoming series, De La Resistance. Brooklyn White, Essence, 6 May 2022 Also, Carter and Phil (Julian Gant, Leslie Jordan) help Randi (Kyla Pratt) spy on her loud neighbors. Los Angeles Times, 7 Apr. 2022 From episode one of Tehran, Mossad hacker/spy Tamar Rabinyan is dropped deep inside Iran. Andy Meek, BGR, 2 Mar. 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.

First Known Use of spy


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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for spy


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

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

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Last Updated

14 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Spy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spy. Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for spy


\ 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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on spy

Nglish: Translation of spy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spy for Arabic Speakers


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