From Middle English spien, aphetic variant of earlier espien (“to espy”), from Old French espier (“to spy”), from Frankish *spehōn (“to spy”), from Proto-Germanic *spehōną (“to see, look”), from Proto-Indo-European *speḱ- (“to look”). Akin to German spähen (“to spy”), Dutch spieden (“to spy”).
spy (plural spies)
- A person who secretly watches and examines the actions of other individuals or organizations and gathers information on them (usually to gain an advantage).
- 2013 June 29, “Travels and travails”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8842, page 55:
- Even without hovering drones, a lurking assassin, a thumping score and a denouement, the real-life story of Edward Snowden, a rogue spy on the run, could be straight out of the cinema. But, as with Hollywood, the subplots and exotic locations may distract from the real message: America’s discomfort and its foes’ glee.
- (intransitive) To act as a spy.
- During the Cold War, Russia and America would each spy on each other for recon.
- (transitive) To spot; to catch sight of.
- I think I can spy that hot guy coming over here.
- Template:RQ:Swift A Letter to a Young Clergyman
- One in reading, skipped over all sentences where he spied a note of admiration.
- (Can we date this quote by Latimer and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
- Look about with your eyes; spy what things are to be reformed in the church of England.
- (intransitive) To search narrowly; to scrutinize.
- c. 1603–1604, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene iii]:
- It is my nature's plague / To spy into abuses.
- (transitive) To explore; to see; to view; inspect and examine secretly, as a country.
- “spy” in The Bokmål Dictionary.
From Old Norse spýja, from Proto-Germanic *spīwaną, from Proto-Indo-European *(s)ptyēw- (“to spit, vomit”). Compare Norwegian and Danish spy, Icelandic spýja, English spew, Dutch spuwen, German speien.