[ spahy ]
See synonyms for: spyspiedspiesspying on Thesaurus.com

noun,plural spies.
  1. 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.

  2. a person who keeps close and secret watch on the actions and words of another or others.

  1. 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.

  2. the act of spying.

verb (used without object),spied, spy·ing.
  1. to observe secretively or furtively with hostile intent (often followed by on or upon).

  2. to act as a spy; engage in espionage.

  1. to be on the lookout; keep watch.

  2. to search for or examine something closely or carefully.

verb (used with object),spied, spy·ing.
  1. to catch sight of suddenly; espy; descry: to spy a rare bird overhead.

  2. to discover or find out by observation or scrutiny (often followed by out).

  1. to observe (a person, place, enemy, etc.) secretively or furtively with hostile intent.

  2. to inspect or examine or to search or look for closely or carefully.

Origin of spy

First recorded in 1200–50; (for the verb) Middle English spien, shortened from espien, espyen “to espy” (see espy ); (for the noun) Middle English, shortened from espy “a spy,” from Old French espie

Other words from spy

  • spyship, noun
  • outspy, verb (used with object), out·spied, out·spy·ing.
  • su·per·spy, noun, plural su·per·spies.
  • un·spied, adjective
  • un·spy·ing, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use spy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for spy


/ (spaɪ) /

nounplural spies
  1. a person employed by a state or institution to obtain secret information from rival countries, organizations, companies, etc

  2. a person who keeps secret watch on others

  1. obsolete a close view

verbspies, spying or spied
  1. (intr usually foll by on) to keep a secret or furtive watch (on)

  2. (intr) to engage in espionage

  1. (tr) to catch sight of; descry

Origin of spy

C13 spien, from Old French espier, of Germanic origin; related to Old High German spehōn, Middle Dutch spien

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