Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The practice of spying or of using spies to obtain secret information, especially regarding a government or business.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The practice of spying; secret observation of the acts or utterances of another by a spy or emissary; offensive surveillance.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The practice or employment of spies; the practice of watching the words and conduct of others, to make discoveries, as spies or secret emissaries; secret watching.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The act or process of learning secret information through clandestine means.

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

  • noun the systematic use of spies to get military or political secrets

Etymologies

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

[French espionnage, from espionner, to spy, from Old French espion, spy, from Old Italian spione, of Germanic origin; see spek- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Recorded since 1793, from French espionnage, from Middle French espionner ("to spy"), from Old French espion ("spy"), itself probably from a Germanic source (akin to Old High German spehon "spy"), possibly via Italian spione (from spia). More at spy

Examples

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