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spy out the land

To find out about or come to understand a particular state of affairs or the way a situation exists or has developed, especially before taking any decisive or definitive action. Given the turbulent nature of this market, I think it would be prudent for us to spy out the land before we agree to invest in your company. I'm just spying out the land regarding my parents' divorce before I make any solid plans to come visit them this Christmas.
See also: land, out, spy

spy on (someone or something)

To observe someone or something in a clandestine or furtive manner, so as not to be noticed doing so. I can't believe you hired a private detective to spy on me—do you really distrust me that much? I was sent to spy on the foreign ambassador during his time in Washington.
See also: on, spy

spy out

1. To observe or investigate something or some place very closely or carefully in order to discover something or glean some information. A noun or pronoun can be used between "spy" and "out." We sent our best agents to spy the enemy encampment out in order to find a weak spot. I've been spying out some land to the west of town that could be suitable for our farm.
2. To discover something or glean some information as a result of close, careful observation. A noun or pronoun can be used between "spy" and "out." I've been sent to spy out what goes on behind closed doors at this factory. We so far haven't been able to spy any motive out for the attack.
See also: out, spy

spy (up)on someone or something

to watch someone or something to learn secret or concealed information. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) Are you spying upon me? I wasn't spying on you! I was just trying to see who you were.
See also: on, spy

spy on

Secretly or furtively observe someone or something, as in The children loved spying on the grownups, or The company sent him to spy on the competitor's sales force. [Early 1600s]
See also: on, spy

ˌspy out the ˈland

find out about a situation, a place, an organization, etc. before you make a decision: The manager is sending Mark to Iceland to spy out the land. He wants to know whether we can do business there.
See also: land, out, spy

spy on

or spy upon
To observe someone or something secretly and closely: A detective had been spying on the mayor's every move for months. The children spied upon their neighbors from the bushes along the property line.
See also: on, spy

spy out

1. To observe some place secretly and closely: The troops spied out the cave and decided it was safe to hide there. The explorers sent a scout into the valley to spy it out before descending.
2. To discover something by observing secretly and closely: Try to spy out what's going on on those rooftops. We followed the other teams' strategies carefully to spy them out.
See also: out, spy
References in periodicals archive ?
Now, renowned as a best-selling spy author, Edinburgh University graduate Dame Stella will present a lecture on the relationship between spy fiction and spy fact.
That's what was really interesting stuff for me, the psychological effect that being a spy would have on our characters.
Why is it important for a spy to keep his or her identity and activities secret?
We have FIVE great Spy Net packs to give away, each inclu Mission Video Watch, a Flex Neck Snake Cam and a Voice Recording Spy Pen, worth a total of almost pounds 95.
During their mission, trainee spies will get to grips with the very latest spy gadgets, as they infiltrate a shadowy organisation, evade counter-surveillance and escape without detection.
Numerous witnesses, including maids of both families, reported seeing the men together regularly, and auto registration records supported Chambers' claim that Hiss gave him a car to aid in his transport of documents filched by the spy ring.
On Washington's orders, his second-in-command, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, set up a spy network in British-controlled New York City.
Yet, as my daughter graphically pointed out in her "good spy balloon" and "bad spy balloon," drawings created when she was eight years of age, spies can be both bad and good.
According to affidavits filed in early April by FBI investigators, Leung had been a spy in the service of the People's Republic of China (PRC) since at least 1991.
Here, expert on CIA operations Tom Mangold discusses the technical brilliance used by the USA to spy on Russia and their failure to tell President Reagan he was pushing them into a state of nuclear paranoia.
It doesn't take James Bond to spy a big film trend: Secret agents are everywhere, including three of last week's top four B.
Austrian-based Altova Inc has introduced XML Spy 4.
Hanssen, the FBI says, had been a spy for Moscow for 15 years.
The physicist, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of being a spy for China.