verb (used with object), es·pied, es·py·ing.

to see at a distance; catch sight of.

Origin of espy

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

Synonyms for espy




James Pol·lard [pol-erd] /ˈpɒl ərd/, 1785–1860, U.S. meteorologist. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for espy

Contemporary Examples of espy

Historical Examples of espy

  • If danger lay there I could not espy it nor detect its presence.

    The House Under the Sea

    Sir Max Pemberton

  • There were no tall trees near behind which we could run should he espy us.

  • As soon as we were outside the door, whom should we espy there, in the large hall, just at the entrance?

    Cuore (Heart)

    Edmondo De Amicis

  • I've lodged them with the Capuchins, where not even a prying sunbeam can espy them.

  • No,” said the great boy; “it belongs to Espy, and I am going to keep it for him.


    Jacob Abbott

British Dictionary definitions for espy


verb -pies, -pying or -pied

(tr) to catch sight of or perceive (something distant or previously unnoticed); detectto espy a ship on the horizon
Derived Formsespier, noun

Word Origin for espy

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 espy

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for espy


[ĕspē]James Pollard 1785-1860

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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.