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Related to spied: espionage
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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 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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
The CIA has been tarred at times by scandal, especially after it was discovered in the 1970s that agency had been involved in assassination plots, had directed coups to overthrow foreign governments, and had spied on Americans.
In Archer's reformulation, the specular processes by which courtiers spied and were spied upon - reflecting the paranoia of early modern subjectivity as described by Elias, Foucault, and Lacan - drew both the Renaissance courtier and the absolute monarch into contingent social relationships based on the gathering and use of information.
The strongest and most consistent campaign has been to portray Pollard as a 'friendly spy.' Even though he spied for a foreign power, that foreign power is neither an enemy nor a rival of the U.S., but a strategic partner.
His revelations also showed the US government eavesdropped on phone calls of at least 35 world leaders, spied on Russia's leadership with the help of Sweden, spied on the 2010 G8 and G20 summits in Toronto as well as the 2009 G20 summit in London with the help of the host countries' governments.
During World War II a number of individuals were recruited by the Germans to spy on Britain, who then in turn, spied against Germany.
"The Guys Who Spied for China" tells the story of two gentlemen who uncover the deeper uncover some of these eyes for China in the United States, in their home state of California.
Edgar Hoover, the agency routinely spied on American citizens--eventually surveilling and compiling dossiers on a good bulk of the American political, entertainment, and literary establishments.