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[es-pee-uh-nahzh, -nij, es-pee-uh-nahzh] /ˈɛs pi əˌnɑʒ, -nɪdʒ, ˌɛs pi əˈnɑʒ/
the act or practice of spying.
the use of spies by a government to discover the military and political secrets of other nations.
the use of spies by a corporation or the like to acquire the plans, technical knowledge, etc., of a competitor:
industrial espionage.
Origin of espionage
1785-95; < French espionnage, Middle French espionage, equivalent to espionn(er) to spy (derivative of espion spy < Italian spione < Germanic; akin to German spähen to look out) + -age -age
Related forms
nonespionage, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for espionage
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Plato does not seem to be aware that espionage can only have a negative effect.

    Laws Plato
  • I am neither ashamed of the 'espionage,' nor should I be averse to the marriage.

    Sir Jasper Carew Charles James Lever
  • The world was at peace, and there was no incentive to espionage as there had been in pre-war days.

    The Doctor of Pimlico William Le Queux
  • I will not, as now, be watched and suspected, and be under a state of espionage!

    The Home Fredrika Bremer
  • It is "a system of espionage" that prevails under every form of government.

    White Lies Charles Reade
British Dictionary definitions for espionage


/ˈɛspɪəˌnɑːʒ; ˌɛspɪəˈnɑːʒ; ˈɛspɪənɪdʒ/
the systematic use of spies to obtain secret information, esp by governments to discover military or political secrets
the act or practice of spying
Word Origin
C18: from French espionnage, from espionner to spy, from espion spy, from Old Italian spione, of Germanic origin; compare German spähen to spy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for espionage

1793, from French espionnage "spying," from Middle French espionner "to spy," from Old French espion "spy," probably via Italian spione from a Germanic source akin to Old High German spehon "spy" (see spy).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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