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spy

[spahy] /spaɪ/
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.
3.
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.
4.
the act of spying.
verb (used without object), spied, spying.
5.
to observe secretively or furtively with hostile intent (often followed by on or upon).
6.
to act as a spy; engage in espionage.
7.
to be on the lookout; keep watch.
8.
to search for or examine something closely or carefully.
verb (used with object), spied, spying.
9.
to catch sight of suddenly; espy; descry:
to spy a rare bird overhead.
10.
to discover or find out by observation or scrutiny (often followed by out).
11.
to observe (a person, place, enemy, etc.) secretively or furtively with hostile intent.
12.
to inspect or examine or to search or look for closely or carefully.
Origin
1200-1250
1200-50; (v.) Middle English spien, aphetic variant of espien to espy; (noun) Middle English, aphetic variant of espy a spy < Old French espie
Related forms
spyship, noun
outspy, verb (used with object), outspied, outspying.
superspy, noun, plural superspies.
unspied, adjective
unspying, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for spies
  • When the time came for the war to begin, the willow-wren sent out spies to discover who was the enemy's commander-in-chief.
  • Even spies could not get near him, on account of the undergrowth and overflowed lands.
  • Yet for all this openness, it is rare to hear the spies themselves speak.
  • No less significant is the extensive exchange of intelligence between the two countries' spies.
  • The style of government was a spoils system, underpinned by terror of a vicious network of spies and secret police.
  • Soldiers, spies, volunteers and the self-employed are not covered.
  • The tension gives both countries an excuse to spend more on guns and spies, some to be turned on domestic enemies.
  • But in the post-communist world new uses need to be found for old spies.
  • Clear-headed for the first time in what seems days, the pilot almost immediately spies lights flashing in the murky distance.
  • Used to be if spies wanted to eavesdrop, they planted a bug.
British Dictionary definitions for spies

spy

/spaɪ/
noun (pl) 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
3.
(obsolete) a close view
verb spies, spying, spied
4.
(intransitive) usually foll by on. to keep a secret or furtive watch (on)
5.
(intransitive) to engage in espionage
6.
(transitive) to catch sight of; descry
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for spies

spy

v.

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)).

n.

mid-13c., "one who spies on another," From Old French espie, probably from a Germanic source (see spy (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spies in the Bible

When the Israelites reached Kadesh for the first time, and were encamped there, Moses selected twelve spies from among the chiefs of the divisions of the tribes, and sent them forth to spy the land of Canaan (Num. 13), and to bring back to him a report of its actual condition. They at once proceeded on their important errand, and went through the land as far north as the district round Lake Merom. After about six weeks' absence they returned. Their report was very discouraging, and the people were greatly alarmed, and in a rebellious spirit proposed to elect a new leader and return to Egypt. Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, showed themselves on this occasion stout-hearted and faithful. All their appeals and remonstrances were in vain. Moses announced that as a punishment for their rebellion they must now wander in the wilderness till a new generation should arise which would go up and posses the land. The spies had been forty days absent on their expedition, and for each day the Israelites were to be wanderers for a year in the desert. (See ESHCOL.) Two spies were sent by Joshua "secretly" i.e., unknown to the people (Josh. 2:1), "to view the land and Jericho" after the death of Moses, and just before the tribes under his leadership were about to cross the Jordan. They learned from Rahab (q.v.), in whose house they found a hiding-place, that terror had fallen on all the inhabitants of the land because of the great things they had heard that Jehovah had done for them (Ex. 15:14-16; comp. 23:27; Deut. 2:25; 11:25). As the result of their mission they reported: "Truly Jehovah hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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