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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

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 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 ?
Learn the types of technology spies use to secretly gather information.
If identity begins with a name, will not spies have as many identities as pseudonyms?
Family-owned Spies Kunststoffe started in 1964 as a mold-making shop with 6800 sq ft of production area and 22 employees.
Both of them, we now know unambiguously from Venona cables, were Soviet spies.
In the end, Washington's Continental Army prevailed, thanks in no small part to an intrepid (brave) few who were America's first spies.
Free of propaganda about whether particular spies are good or bad, this apolitical museum focuses objectively on the craft of spying itself.
has spied on its enemies since the days of George Washington (who recruited spies for the Revolutionary Army), the Central Intelligence Agency, the government's most famous spy agency, was only established in 1947.
Spies who want to check out faraway military camps, say, should soon have a field day with the world's first private spy satellite camera.
More often than not spies suddenly 'disappear' from circulation, are tried in camera and serve their sentence either anonymously or under assumed identities.
Former CIA Director Gates didn't quarrel with the notion that CIA spies might be asked to collect information covertly on the environment.
The political Cold War may be over, but corporate spies, many of them employed by "friendly" governments, are stealing technology and information vital to America's competitiveness and national security.
I also question the ideas that spies suffer from mental illness (myth three), receive swift and certain punishment (myth four), are usually clever and highly intelligent (myth five), are disproportionately homosexual (myth six), and are disproportionately Jewish (myth seven).