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[ih-spahy] /ɪˈspaɪ/
verb (used with object), espied, espying.
to see at a distance; catch sight of.
Origin of espy
1175-1225; Middle English espyen < Old French espierGermanic; compare German spähen to spy
Related forms
unespied, adjective
discern, descry, discover, perceive, make out.


[es-pee] /ˈɛs pi/
James Pollard
[pol-erd] /ˈpɒl ərd/ (Show IPA),
1785–1860, U.S. meteorologist. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for espy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • An artist, so handsome, so good a conversationist—it could be no other than her own espy—hers from her very babyhood.

  • If danger lay there I could not espy it nor detect its presence.

    The House Under the Sea Sir Max Pemberton
  • Will she espy the dark form in the deep shade of the orange, and, with one piercing scream, wheel and vanish?

    Madame Delphine George W. Cable
  • As soon as we were outside the door, whom should we espy there, in the large hall, just at the entrance?

    Cuore (Heart) Edmondo De Amicis
  • But in the dark the natives can espy things invisible to white men.

    My Attainment of the Pole Frederick A. Cook
  • “I should like to buy the squirrel, if espy will sell him,” said Phonny.

    Stuyvesant Jacob Abbott
  • I will try, she answered with a deep-drawn sigh; and oh, I am glad and thankful that I have you with me, espy!

  • They rode on rapidly, intending to go to the house and inquire for espy.

    Stuyvesant Jacob Abbott
  • But a watchman was generally kept in it, to espy approaching vessels and to signal to the city news of their approach.

    The History of Cuba, vol. 1 Willis Fletcher Johnson
British Dictionary definitions for espy


verb -pies, -pying, -pied
(transitive) to catch sight of or perceive (something distant or previously unnoticed); detect: to espy a ship on the horizon
Derived Forms
espier, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French espier to spy, of Germanic origin
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 espy

early 13c., aspy, from Old French espier (12c., Modern French épier), from Vulgar Latin *spiare, from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German spehon "to spy;" see spy). Related: Espied. For initial e-, see especial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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espy in Science
American meteorologist who is credited with the first correct explanation of the role heat plays in cloud formation and growth. His use of the telegraph in relaying meteorological observations and tracking storms laid the foundation for modern weather forecasting.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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