Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To catch sight of (something distant, partially hidden, or obscure); glimpse. See Synonyms at see1.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To catch sight of; to perceive with the eyes; to discover, as a distant object partly concealed, or not obvious to notice; to see at a glance; to discern unexpectedly; to spy; as, to espy land; to espy a man in a crowd.
  • v. To inspect narrowly; to examine and keep watch upon; to watch; to observe.
  • v. To look or search narrowly; to look about; to watch; to take notice; to spy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A spy; a scout.
  • intransitive v. To look or search narrowly; to look about; to watch; to take notice; to spy.
  • transitive v. To catch sight of; to perceive with the eyes; to discover, as a distant object partly concealed, or not obvious to notice; to see at a glance; to discern unexpectedly; to spy
  • transitive v. To inspect narrowly; to examine and keep watch upon; to watch; to observe.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To see at a distance; catch sight of or discover at a distance.
  • To see or discover suddenly, after some effort, or unexpectedly, as by accident: with reference to some person or thing in a degree concealed or intended to be hidden: as, to espy a man in a crowd.
  • To inspect narrowly; explore and examine; observe and keep watch upon; spy.
  • Synonyms To discern, descry, perceive, catch sight of.
  • To look narrowly; keep watch; spy.
  • n. A spy; scout; watch.
  • n. Espial; espionage.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. catch sight of

Etymologies

Middle English espien, from Old French espier, to watch, of Germanic origin; see spek- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

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Comments

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  • Yeah, I probably go for espying being a pretentious ass usage here.

    June 4, 2009

  • Occupational hazard.

    June 4, 2009

  • It is a bit of textual gristle, but I had no problem understanding it. A comma might help, as Q. suggests, but I don't think it's necessary. "Espy" is pretentious-cute here, I think. I'd rewrite it this way: "not so much seeing the art galleries or mountain ranges or rivers as seeing the places where cherished friends…" "Espying" could also be replaced by "noticing", which would probably have cleared up any confusion in the first place.
    *has to stop self from editing things that no one has asked or is willing to pay to be edited*

    June 4, 2009

  • Where's Willard?

    June 4, 2009

  • ... or perhaps a surgeon?

    June 4, 2009

  • Odd. I know a comma should be there, but at first read I had no trouble with it.

    Signed, A Beleaguered Editor

    June 4, 2009

  • Don't even joke about that.

    June 3, 2009

  • Thanks qroqqa, for scalpelling through that lump of textual gristle with your usual precision. Have you considered a career as an editor?

    June 3, 2009

  • All I know is, when yarb's in a self-described pissy mood, he coins a bunch of really cool phrases, like Ombudsman for Citational Pedantry, or ruddy with booze and bonhomie.

    Edit: or lump of textual gristle.

    June 3, 2009

  • *boggles, rereads* Aha. If you used 'seeing' instead, it would mean "not seeing galleries as places where . . . but rather seeing them as some other kind of place". Wrong 'as', however. It actually means "seeing galleries not so much as places where X happens . . . but as places where Y happens". The sentence is missing a comma after 'rivers'. (The comparative 'not so much', which governs the following 'as', is in a stylistically unusual, unexpected place.)

    With 'espy', you can't espy something as something (= "in the light/form of", so the construction can only be the 'not so much . . . as' one.

    June 3, 2009

  • Is something missing from that sentence? And why does Cowell use espy here when what he means is view or see?

    Signed, Ombudsman for Citational Pedantry.

    June 3, 2009

  • hard to get out of my head a thick Spanish accent on 'spy'. "Estop espyin on me!"

    *shame*


    June 3, 2009

  • "I have come to look at the world's map anew, espying not so much the art galleries or mountain ranges or rivers as places where cherished friends have taken up residence and would, perhaps, enjoy showing an old buddy the ins and outs, the meandering back road rather than the superhighway."
    - Alan Cowell, 'When a Host Becomes a Guest', New York Times, 29 Dec 2002.

    June 3, 2009