I spy n
1 also I-spy-hi: = hide-and-seek A. Cf hide-and-spy 1, hy spy n 1, I spy exclam
1883 NewellGames & Songs 160, I Spy. [Footnote: Pronounced Hie Spy.]] 1891 Jrl. Amer. Folkl. 4.226 Brooklyn NYC, I spy, or hide and seek. . . A lamp-post or tree is taken as the “home” or “hunk;” the one who is “it” must stand there with his eyes closed, and count five hundred by fives . . while the others go hide. . . When “it” discovers a player in hiding, he cries out, “I spy so and so,” calling the person by name, and runs to “hunk,” for if the one spied should get in to “hunk” first, he would relieve himself. The players run in to the “hunk” when they have a good chance, and cry relievo! and if they get in first, they are free. . . If the one who is “it” mistakes one player for another . . and calls out the wrong name, both boys cry, “False alarm!” and are permitted, according to custom, to come in free. 1892 DN 1.236 NEng, In New England the game . . is variously called I spy, hi spy, hi-spry (Cape Cod); hide and (go) seek, hide and whoop. 1893 Shands MS Speech 72, Hi-Spy. . . is applied to both out-door and in-door hide-and-go-seek. I spy is also used. 1899 Champlin–Bostwick Young Folks’ Games 442, I spy, an out-door hiding game. . . [T]he others hide, . . and when the player at the goal has finished counting, he goes out in search of them. When he sees one he names him, saying, “I spy James Smith,” or whoever it may be. Both now run for the goal. If the hider touch it first, without being touched himself, he is safe. 1899 (1912) Green VA Folk-Speech 241, I-spy. . . So called from the exclamation of the seeker “I-spy” so-and-so, when he discovers a hidden player. 1906 Lovett Old Boston Boys 10, The games played by the boys of Chestnut and the adjacent streets are most pleasantly recalled; among which “I Spy,” “The Red Lion,” and “Punk” stand out prominently. 1940 Kennedy–Harlow Schoolmaster 227 IN, There were other games which the boys and girls began playing together—Hide and Seek or I Spy. 1952 Brown NC Folkl. 1.38, I Spy. 1957 Sat. Eve. Post Letters cwCA (as of 1915–19), I spy (a form of hide-and-seek started at dusk and played until too dark to see). Ibid swCA, We played “I Spy” where we stood at Home Base and said “I spy so and so” and told where they were hidden if questioned. 1968–70 DARE (Qu. EE13a, Games in which every player hides except one, and that one must try to find the others) Infs AL52, IL107, MA14, 24, PA115, TN37, 43, WI52, I spy. 1970 AmSp 45.207, Other names for this game included I-spy, hi-spy, I-spy-hi, whoop- or hoop-and-hide, and hide-and-coop.
2 A game in which an object is hidden and one or more players look for it.Cf hide-and-spy 2
1950WELS (Games in which you hide an object and look for it) 7 Infs, WI, I spy. 1953 Brewster Amer. Nonsinging Games 46 IN, I-spy. . . This is an indoor game known also as Hide the Button, Huckle Buckle Beanstalk, Hunt the Thimble, Thimble in Sight. . . All the players except the one who is to be “It” leave the room. The latter puts the thimble in some out-of-the-way place . . always in plain view. He then calls back the other players, and they begin to hunt for the thimble. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. EE3) 131 Infs, widespread exc NEng, I spy.
3 A children’s game in which players guess the name of a visible object chosen by a player who is “it.”
[1957 Sat. Eve. Post Letters nwManitoba Canada, Some of the games played by my playmates and me when we were children. . . “I spy with my little eye.”1970AmSp 45.207, [The term] I-spy . . survives in a children’s parlor game: “I spy with my little eye something that begins with. . . (a letter of the alphabet).”] 1990 DARE File cwCA (as of c1950), When I was a child, we played I spy just by saying “I spy” and having someone else guess what we were looking at. My children, who grew up in Wisconsin, learned the game from friends; they say “I spy with my little eye something that begins with (a particular letter).”