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See more synonyms for espy on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), es·pied, es·py·ing.
  1. to see at a distance; catch sight of.
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Origin of espy

1175–1225; Middle English espyen < Old French espierGermanic; compare German spähen to spy
Related formsun·es·pied, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

notice, detect, watch, spot, discover, see, observe, glimpse, sight, view, find, discern

Examples from the Web for espied

Historical Examples

  • But just then he espied the transfigured face of the girl in pink.

    A Breath of Prairie and other stories

    Will Lillibridge

  • Espied for a moment, it was immediately afterwards lost in the darkness.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

  • It was in a pause for breath that she raised her infuriated head and espied the intruder.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • In the distance down one of these he espied some slaves at work.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

  • As they approached the tan-vats he espied a carbine lying on the ground.

British Dictionary definitions for espied


verb -pies, -pying or -pied
  1. (tr) to catch sight of or perceive (something distant or previously unnoticed); detectto espy a ship on the horizon
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Derived Formsespier, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French espier to spy, of Germanic origin
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

Word Origin and History for espied



early 13c., aspy, from Old French espier (12c., Modern French épier), from Vulgar Latin *spiare, from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German spehon "to spy;" see spy). Related: Espied. For initial e-, see especial.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

espied in Science


  1. American meteorologist who is credited with the first correct explanation of the role heat plays in cloud formation and growth. His use of the telegraph in relaying meteorological observations and tracking storms laid the foundation for modern weather forecasting.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.