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slang A private investigator or detective. "Eye" is a pun on the letter "i" in "investigator." The disgraced police detective moved to another state and started a business as a private eye. It turned out they'd hired a private eye to keep tabs on her after she left the law firm.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A privately employed detective, as opposed to one working for the police or another authority. For example, The children loved stories about private eyes, and Janey wanted to become one. This expression comes from the term private investigator, the "i" of investigator being changed to "eye," which plays on the idea of a person looking into things. [1930s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a ˌprivate ˈeye(informal) a detective who is not in the police, but who can be employed to find out information, find a missing person, follow somebody, etc: They hired a private eye to look for more evidence.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
n. a detective who is licensed to work privately rather than for a police department. I worked for a while as a private eye.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.