[es-pee-uh-nahzh, -nij, es-pee-uh-nahzh]


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

Related Words for espionage

intelligence, reconnaissance, shadowing, tailing

Examples from the Web for espionage

Contemporary Examples of espionage

Historical Examples of espionage

  • Plato does not seem to be aware that espionage can only have a negative effect.



  • 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



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