- a person employed by a government to obtain secret information or intelligence about another, usually hostile, country, especially with reference to military or naval affairs.
- a person who keeps close and secret watch on the actions and words of another or others.
- a person who seeks to obtain confidential information about the activities, plans, methods, etc., of an organization or person, especially one who is employed for this purpose by a competitor: an industrial spy.
- the act of spying.
- to observe secretively or furtively with hostile intent (often followed by on or upon).
- to act as a spy; engage in espionage.
- to be on the lookout; keep watch.
- to search for or examine something closely or carefully.
- to catch sight of suddenly; espy; descry: to spy a rare bird overhead.
- to discover or find out by observation or scrutiny (often followed by out).
- to observe (a person, place, enemy, etc.) secretively or furtively with hostile intent.
- to inspect or examine or to search or look for closely or carefully.
Origin of spy
- a person employed by a state or institution to obtain secret information from rival countries, organizations, companies, etc
- a person who keeps secret watch on others
- obsolete a close view
- (intr usually foll by on) to keep a secret or furtive watch (on)
- (intr) to engage in espionage
- (tr) to catch sight of; descry
Word Origin and History for spy on
mid-13c., from Old French espier "to spy," probably from Frankish *spehon, from Proto-Germanic *spekh- (cf. Old High German *spehon "to look out for, scout, spy," German spähen "to spy," Middle Dutch spien), the Germanic survivals of the productive PIE root *spek- "to look" (see scope (n.1)).
mid-13c., "one who spies on another," From Old French espie, probably from a Germanic source (see spy (v.)).
Idioms and Phrases with spy on
Secretly or furtively observe someone or something, as in The children loved spying on the grownups, or The company sent him to spy on the competitor's sales force. [Early 1600s]