From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary Englishspyspy1 /spaɪ/ ●●○ noun (plural spies) [countable] SPYsomeone whose job is to find out secret information about another country, organization, or group SYN secret agent She worked as a spy for the American government.spy ring/network (=an organized group of spies)spy plane/satelliteCOLLOCATIONSverbswork as a spyHe died while working as a government spy.be arrested/imprisoned/shot etc as a spyAnyone caught working with the Resistance was shot as a spy.ADJECTIVES/NOUN + spya British/American etc spyHe was arrested on suspicion of being an American spy.a foreign spyThe activities of foreign spies have increased.an enemy spyHe gave information to enemy spies.a government spyThey thought I was a government spy.spy + NOUNa spy story/novel/movie etcJohn le Carré is famous for writing spy stories.one of the most exciting spy movies of all timea spy ring (also a network of spies) (=a group of spies)He was well informed through his network of spies.a spy satellite/plane (=used for spying)The Americans have denied using spy satellites to spy on China.The photographs were taken by spy planes.a spy chief (also a spymaster)Britain's first woman spy chief John le Carré’s fictional spy master George Smiley THESAURUSspy someone whose job is to find out secret information about another countryStalin controlled a network of spies.The film is basically a spy story.agent/secret agent someone who works for a government or police department in order to get secret information about another country or organizationa secret agent working for MI5He is the FBI’s best undercover agent (=one who works secretly and pretends to be someone else).double agent someone who finds out an enemy country’s secrets for their own country but who also gives secrets to the enemya former CIA double agent who also worked for the KGBmole someone who works for an organization while secretly giving information to its enemiesA mole in the government was leaking information to the press.informer someone who secretly tells the police about criminal activities, especially for moneyActing on information from an informer, the police raided the house.espionage the work that spies doHe is serving a 20-year prison sentence for espionage.
Examples from the Corpusspy• He was suspected of having been a spy during the war.• A spy pays for himself twice, because there's always the reward when we turn him in.• The job of the secret police was to hunt down spies and traitors.• an enemy spy• In any case, I don't think I'd make a very good spy.• The 11 men had allegedly been involved in spying.• He had been accused of spying and held without trial for ten years.• A sort of known and often welcome spy.spyspy2 ●●○ verb (spied, spying) 1 [intransitive]SPY to secretly collect information about an enemy country or an organization you are competing againstspy on He was charged with spying on British military bases.spy for He confessed to spying for North Korea.2 [transitive] literarySEE to suddenly see someone or something, especially after searching for them SYN spot Ellen suddenly spied her friend in the crowd. —spying noun [uncountable]THESAURUSwork that a spy doesspying the action of secretly collecting information about a person, country, or organizationSeveral embassy officials had been arrested for spying.espionage spying. Espionage is more formal than spyingZakharov was charged with espionage.The company carried out a campaign of industrial espionage against its main rival.Double agents are quite commonplace in the world of espionage.surveillance activity in which the police, army, etc watch a person or place carefully because they may be connected with criminal activities24-hour surveillance of the buildingThe police have had him under surveillance (=have been watching him)for months.covert operations secret military activities against an enemyThese planes are used by British Intelligence for covert operations. → spy on somebody → spy something ↔ out→ See Verb table
Examples from the Corpusspy• A former US diplomat has confessed to spying.• Wilkinson spied a conspiracy to resist all the evidence that this chemical was dangerous.• Pope has insisted he was not spying and the materials he purchased were not secret.• Philby had been spying for the Russians for several years.• I spied him standing on the other side of the room.• He said Hanssen had begun spying in 1979 and stopped voluntarily in 1981.• Lili sensed that she was being spied on, but she didn't care.• There was no way I was going across to follow Ewen Mackay to spy on his activities at the house.• For years the satellite spied on secret weapon bases.• Boxing: Jacobs spies the ladder.spy for• The three men were accused of having spied for the Soviet Union.Origin spy2 (1200-1300) Old French espier