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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 ?
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.
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.
With the dawn of the cyber-age, a new generation of spies has added computer modems, satellite cameras, and even encoded messages in microscopic DNA to their spy gear.
Moreover unlike other American spies Pollard was never charged with treason and hence, his supporters argue, he should not be treated harshly.
Today, spies steal valuable business information rather than military information--which is worth less now that the Cold War is over--and the advanced technologies of American companies are particularly tempting targets for them.
Even security professionals and federal law enforcement personnel seem to believe that caught spies have long been the subject of behavioral science study.
Although many attempts were made by the allies to fool the Germans about the invasion, this work focuses on one attempt--the providing of false information from these five double cross spies about the place of the invasion.
NEW YORK, May 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Forget what you think you know about spies and the tools they use.
Byers is the incredible biography of the life of one of the Soviet Unions greatest spies during the Cold War.
Instead, spooks and spies must make do with the International Spy Museum, a techno-slick for-profit enterprise that opened a few years ago among Washington's downtown tourist warrens, right between a high-class hotel and a brewpub.
I'm certain that our CIA and/or other so-called intelligence agencies have our spies in many other countries around the world, both allies and enemy.
de Toledano, who interviewed the secretive Gouzenko on more than one occasion and is one of the foremost experts on the atom bomb spies, wrote of May's treason:
During the Revolutionary War, American spies discovered secret British plans and fooled the British about what General Washington was up to.