[ 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.

Nearby words

  1. especial,
  2. especially,
  3. esperance,
  4. esperanto,
  5. espial,
  6. esplanade,
  7. esplees,
  8. espn,
  9. espoo,
  10. esports

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 formsnon·es·pi·o·nage, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for espionage

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 for espionage

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

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