- 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
Examples from the Web for spies
Current and former intelligence officials have said North Korea has long been a priority target for American spies.Was Sony Hit With a Second Hack?
January 8, 2015
American spies have detailed dossiers on the North Koreans who the U.S. says were behind the Sony attack.U.S. Spies Say They Tracked ‘Sony Hackers’ For Years
January 2, 2015
The U.S. got a relatively good deal—three Cuban spies were returned to their country in the swap.Up To Speed: The Cuba Embargo
December 18, 2014
Gross and an unnamed American intelligence agent were freed Wednesday in exchange for three Cuban spies.Cuba Protects America’s Most Wanted
December 18, 2014
U.S. spies are worried the long-awaited Senate review will paint targets on their backs.CIA Offers New Security Checks for ‘Torture Report’ Spies
Shane Harris, Kimberly Dozier
December 9, 2014
Perhaps he thought of Rahab who hid the spies, and received a commendation for it.Harriet, The Moses of Her People
Sarah H. Bradford
He probably has a large body of spies and scouts working under him.
I must be active in order to cope with the enemy's own scouts and spies.
But if they come in here do we want to stay and be arrested for English spies?The Boy Scouts on Belgian Battlefields
Lieut. Howard Payson
He then looked out for a post card from the spies, appointing a rendezvous.A Nest of Spies
- 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 spies
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.)).