What does spy mean?

Definitions for spy

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word spy.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. spy, undercover agentnoun

    (military) a secret agent hired by a state to obtain information about its enemies or by a business to obtain industrial secrets from competitors

  2. spyverb

    a secret watcher; someone who secretly watches other people

    "my spies tell me that you had a good time last night"

  3. descry, spot, espy, spyverb

    catch sight of

  4. spy, stag, snoop, sleuthverb

    watch, observe, or inquire secretly

  5. spy, sightverb

    catch sight of; to perceive with the eyes

    "he caught sight of the king's men coming over the ridge"

  6. spyverb

    secretly collect sensitive or classified information; engage in espionage

    "spy for the Russians"


  1. spynoun

    A person who secretly watches and examines the actions of other individuals or organizations and gathers information on them (usually to gain an advantage)

  2. spyverb

    To act as a spy.

    During the Cold War, Russia and America would each spy on each other for recon.

  3. spyverb

    To spot at a distance.

    I think I can spy that hot guy coming over here.

  4. Etymology: spien, aphetic variant of earlier espien "to espy", from espier (espie "a spy"), of origin, from *, from spehōnan, from spek-. Akin to spehōn, spehhōn "to scout, look out for, spy" (spähen "to spy"), spien "to spy", bespieden "to spy on"

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. SPYnoun

    It is observed by a German, that spy has been in all ages a word by which the eye, or office of the eye, has been expressed: thus the Arimaspians of old, fabled to have but one eye, were so called from ari, which, among the nations of Caucasus, still signifies one, and spi, which has been received from the old Asiatick languages for an eye, sight, or one that sees. One sent to watch the conduct or motions of others; one sent to gain intelligence in an enemy’s camp or country.

    Etymology: yspio, Welsh; espion, French; spie, Dutch; speculator, Latin.

    We’ll hear poor rogues
    Talk of court news, and we’ll talk with them too,
    And take upon’s the mystery of things,
    As if we were God’s spies. William Shakespeare, King Lear.

    Spies of the Volscians
    Held me in chace, that I was forc’d to wheel
    Three or four miles about. William Shakespeare, Coriolanus.

    Every corner was possessed by diligent spies upon their master and mistress. Edward Hyde.

    I come no spy,
    With purpose to explore, or to disturb,
    The secrets of your realm. John Milton, Paradise Lost.

    Such command we had,
    To see that none thence issu’d forth a spy,
    Or enemy, while God was in his work. John Milton.

    Nothing lies hid from radiant eyes;
    All they subdue become their spies:
    Secrets, as chosen jewels, are
    Presented to oblige the fair. Edmund Waller.

    O’er my men I’ll set my careful spies,
    To watch rebellion in their very eyes. Dryden.

    These wretched spies of wit must then confess,
    They take more pains to please themselves the less. Dryden.

    Those who attend on their state, are so many spies placed upon them by the publick to observe them nearly. Francis Atterbury.

  2. To Spyverb

    Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
    If it could speak as well as spy,
    This were the worst that it could say,
    That being well I fain would stay. John Donne.

    As tiger spy’d two gentle fawns. John Milton.

    A countryman spied a snake under a hedge, half frozen to death. Roger L'Estrange.

    My brother Guyomar, methinks, I spy:
    Haste in his steps, and wonder in his eye. Dryden.

    One in reading skip’d over all sentences where he spy’d a note of admiration. Jonathan Swift.

    Let a lawyer tell he has spy’d some defect in an entail, how solicitous are they to repair that errour. Decay of Piety.

    Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and took the villages. Numb.

  3. To Spyverb

    To search narrowly.

    It is my nature’s plague
    To spy into abuse; and oft my jealousy
    Shapes faults that are not. William Shakespeare, Othello.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Spyverb

    to gain sight of; to discover at a distance, or in a state of concealment; to espy; to see

  2. Spyverb

    to discover by close search or examination

  3. Spyverb

    to explore; to view; inspect; and examine secretly, as a country; -- usually with out

  4. Spyverb

    to search narrowly; to scrutinize

  5. Spynoun

    one who keeps a constant watch of the conduct of others

  6. Spynoun

    a person sent secretly into an enemy's camp, territory, or fortifications, to inspect his works, ascertain his strength, movements, or designs, and to communicate such intelligence to the proper officer

  7. Etymology: [OE. spien, espien, OF. espier, F. pier, OHG. spehn, G. sphen; akin to L. specere to see, Skr. spa. 169. Cf. Espy, v. t., Aspect, Auspice, Circumspect, Conspicuous, Despise, Frontispiece, Inspect, Prospect, Respite, Scope, Specimen, Spectacle, Specter, Speculate, Spice, Spite, Suspicion.]


  1. Spy

    Spy was a satirical monthly magazine founded in 1986 by Kurt Andersen and E. Graydon Carter, who served as its first editors, and Thomas L. Phillips, Jr., its first publisher. After one folding and a rebirth, it ceased publication in 1998. It specialized in intelligent, thoroughly researched, irreverent pieces targeting the American media and entertainment industries. Many issues often featured brief photographs of nudity relevant to a story. Some of its features attempted to present the darker side of celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Steven Seagal, Martha Stewart, and especially, the real-estate tycoon Donald Trump and his then-wife Ivana Trump. Pejorative epithets of celebrities, e.g. "Abe 'I'm Writing As Bad As I Can' Rosenthal" and "former fat girl Diane Brill" became a Spy trademark. In October 2006, Miramax Books published Spy: The Funny Years, a greatest-hits anthology and history of the magazine created and compiled by Carter, Andersen, and one of their original editors, George Kalogerakis. For a humorous magazine, Spy often was aggressive about straight feature reporting. In the summer of 1992, it ran the only serious investigative story on President George H.W. Bush's alleged extramarital affairs with Jennifer Fitzgerald and other women. The following year, Spy ran an article entitled "Clinton's First 100 Lies", detailing what it described as the new president's pattern of duplicitous behavior.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Spy

    spī, n. one sent into an enemy's country or camp to find out their strength, &c.: one who keeps a watch on others: one who secretly conveys information.—v.t. to see: to discover, generally at a distance: to discover by close search: to inspect secretly:—pa.t. and pa.p. spied.—ns. Spy′al=Spial; Spy′-craft, Spy′ism, the art or practice of spying; Spy′glass, a small hand-telescope; Spy′-hole, a peep-hole; Spy′-mon′ey, money paid for secret intelligence. [O. Fr. espier—Old High Ger. spehōn; L. specĕre.]

Military Dictionary and Gazetteer

  1. spy

    In war, is a useful but not highly honored auxiliary, employed to ascertain the state of an enemy’s affairs, and of his intended operations. Spies have been used in all wars from the time when Moses sent Joshua on such a purpose to the present time. Their employment is quite recognized by the law of nations as interpreted by Grotius, Vattel, and Martens; nor is it held to be any dishonor to a general to avail himself of their services. On the other hand, the spy himself is looked upon as an outlaw, and one devoid of honor. If taken by the enemy, he is put to death ignominiously and without mercy. As, however, the calling is so dangerous, and so little redounds to honor, it is never permissible for a general to compel by threats any person, whether of his own or the hostile party, to act as a spy; but he is at liberty to accept all such services when proffered. A spy is well paid, lest he betray his employer. In the British army, spies are usually controlled by the quartermaster-general. Martial law, though distinct enough in ordering the death of a spy, is not clear in defining what constitutes a spy. A man—not of the enemy—within the enemy’s lines, and in the enemy’s uniform, would presumably be a spy. If in civil dress, and unable to give a good account of himself, his chance of hanging would be considerable; but if found in one camp in the uniform of the opposite side, he may not be treated otherwise than as a prisoner of war, or at least as a deserter from the enemy. Both as regards honor and penalties, it would seem that spies ought in fairness to be divided into two classes,—first, those who betray their own country to an enemy; secondly, those who, being enemies, contrive surreptitiously to obtain information by penetrating into the opposing army. The first class are traitors of a deep dye, for whom no ignominious death is too bad; but the second class are often brave men, who dare much in the service of their country. It is unfair to accord them the same treatment as the traitors.

Suggested Resources

  1. spy

    Song lyrics by spy -- Explore a large variety of song lyrics performed by spy on the Lyrics.com website.

  2. SPY

    What does SPY stand for? -- Explore the various meanings for the SPY acronym on the Abbreviations.com website.

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How to pronounce spy?

How to say spy in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of spy in Chaldean Numerology is: 3

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of spy in Pythagorean Numerology is: 6

Examples of spy in a Sentence

  1. John Delury:

    Regime change is spy novel stuff.

  2. Daniela Tejada:

    The Foreign Office know this and have made The Foreign Office clear to the The UAE authorities that Matthew is not a spy for The UAE authorities, this whole case has been handled appallingly from the very beginning with no one taking Matthew's case seriously.

  3. Jack BarskyRead MoreJack Barsky:

    Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America.

  4. Robert Driscoll:

    I think that for a woman who's been under surveillance for the better part of two years, it's pretty thin gruel to find a two-year-old... message, and say that that proves she's a spy. Most spies do things. She didn't seek nuclear submarine plans, she didn't try to recruit any agents, she didn't pay anyone any money.

  5. Rachel Weisz:

    I've never played at anyone who's been trained as a spy, i don't believe I've ever played a spy.

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Translations for spy

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"spy." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 28 May 2023. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/spy>.

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    declare untrue; contradict
    • A. conform
    • B. interrogate
    • C. deny
    • D. conceal

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