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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 ?
The information in this book is well documented by a number of foreign sources of which a large amount are Chinese and pertains to Chinese policy regarding spying.
The focus is less on the 'tricks of the trade'--although there is usually plenty of this, albeit mostly as a metaphor for dissecting the meaning of spying as a vocation and, in so doing, exploring deeper questions of politics, history, morality and identity.
THE Science of Spying at London's Science Museum runs until September 2007, when it starts an international tour.
The Justice Department laid out its rationale for the spying in a document entitled "Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency.
Interactive computers, film clips, photographic displays, and videos brought alive some of the most dramatic moments in spying history, permitting us to experience them vicariously.
Intelligence specialists say the Chinese have developed a broad spying network in the United States to gather industrial secrets that could help them improve their weapons, including nuclear arms.
In early 1994 Aldrich Ames, a high ranking official at the Central Intelligence Agency was arrested and convicted for spying for the former Soviet Union.
Spying may well be the growth industry of the 1990s.
Although I have read a number of PERSEREC's valuable and informative reports, I have yet to encounter one focused on spies and spying against the United States, other than just narrative descriptions of spying.
Government Remote Viewer 001 tells of the first military recruit for the government to use his abilities as a 'psychic spy' during the Cold War and beyond, following nearly twenty years of psychic spying and reissuing the classic 2002 title The Stargate Chronicles in paper.
Why are we so uptight about someone maybe spying on us?
If the FBI had taken to heart the recommendations of the Bromwich Report in 1997, it is quite likely Hanssen's final phase of spying never would have occurred.
Zola is named after French novelist Emile Zola, who authored the essay "J'Accuse" to defend Alfred Dreyfus, a French army captain of Jewish descent who was wrongly accused, sentenced, and convicted of spying for the Germans--despite strong evidence of his innocence.
Agents who do the kind of spying you see in the movies work for the CIA's clandestine (secret) service.