Definition of spy in English:

spy

Line breaks: spy
Pronunciation: /spʌɪ
 
/

noun (plural spies)

  • 1A person employed by a government or other organization to secretly obtain information on an enemy or competitor.
    More example sentences
    • They served as clerks and couriers, telephone and telegraph operators, code and cipher analysts, and spies behind enemy lines in Europe.
    • You know with skills like that you might be better employed as a spy, a CIA operative or something, instead of being a therapist.
    • Elizabeth I's ministers had to employ spies and even use torture to gain information about threats to her life.
    Synonyms
    secret agent, undercover agent, enemy agent, foreign agent, secret service agent, intelligence agent, double agent, counterspy, industrial spy, fifth columnist, mole, plant, scout; control, handler; North American spook
    informal snooper
    archaic intelligencer
    archaic , • informal beagle
  • 1.1A person who keeps watch on others secretly: [as modifier]: a spy camera
    More example sentences
    • The school's two rabbits Fern and Hill are new additions this year, and children have been watching a spy camera set up in a birdhouse they built.
    • A hi-tech Peeping Tom who set up a secret spy camera to film a younger female friend in the nude was caught after she spotted the lens, a court heard.
    • Did the spy cameras capture the action in the showers?

verb (spies, spying, spied)

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  • 1 [no object] Work for a government or other organization by secretly obtaining information about enemies or competitors: he agreed to spy for the West
    More example sentences
    • The Army has charged him with five offenses: sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage and failure to obey a general order.
    • If they are spying for a commercial competitor, the situation is different.
    • The charges against them have been dropped from spying to ‘illegal information collection’, although the new charge still carries a possible jail sentence.
    Synonyms
    be a spy, be engaged in spying, gather intelligence, work for the secret service
    informal snoop
    espionage, undercover work, cloak-and-dagger activities, surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, eavesdropping, infiltration, counter-espionage, counter-intelligence; in Japan ninjutsu
    informal bugging, wiretapping, recon
  • 1.1 (spy on) Observe (someone) furtively: the couple were spied on by reporters
    More example sentences
    • He often spied on her, watching from the shadows, observing her every gesture.
    • A reporter has been arrested outside the home of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for spying on the star couple with binoculars..
    • To pass the time, he spies on his neighbours, watching the real-life soap opera in the building across from his.
    Synonyms
    observe furtively, keep under surveillance, watch, keep a watch on, keep an eye on, keep under observation, follow, shadow, trail
    informal tail
    rare surveil
  • 1.2 [with object] (spy something out) Collect information about something to use in deciding how to act: he would go and spy out the land
    More example sentences
    • ‘We could sneak over and spy it out while he's not there,’ Melanie suggested.
    • Sherwin, prosecuting, said the two thieves pretended to be poachers as they spied out the land for future thefts.
    • Wilson had repeatedly sent his younger accomplice into the victim's shop to spy out the land before launching his raid.

Origin

Middle English: shortening of Old French espie 'espying', espier 'espy', of Germanic origin, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin specere 'behold, look'.

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