I spy

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For other uses, see I Spy.

I spy is a guessing game. One player chooses an object that is visible to all the players and says, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with ...", naming the letter the chosen object starts with (e.g. "I spy with my little eye something beginning with C" if the chosen object is a car). Other players have to guess the chosen object.[1] An alternative version is played where the colour is given rather than the initial letter (e.g. "I spy with my little eye something blue")[2]

I spy is often played with young children as a means to avert boredom in long journeys. A survey by British insurance company Direct Line found that 58% of families played I spy, and 65% of the parents consulted had played it on journeys as a child.[3]

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines it, under Spy giving the earliest citation as a mention in Rosamond Lehmann's 1946 work The Gipsy's Baby.[2] One etymological website though reports an earlier mention in a 1937 Canadian publication.[4]

The game and its wording are well known in western popular culture, for example the title of the 2002 horror film My Little Eye uses part of the wording from the game.[5]

See also[edit]

  • I-Spy, series of children's "spotter books" taking their name from the game
  • "Cock Robin", a nursery rhyme that includes the phrase "my little eye"


  1. ^ Cohen, Vicki; Cowen, John (2007). "Listening Games". Literacy for Children in an Information Age: Teaching Reading, Writing, and Thinking. Cengage Learning. p. 334. ISBN 9780534611194. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Spy, v. 4 (d)". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 25 May 2012.  (Available online to subscribers)
  3. ^ "Are we there yet?". Direct Line. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "I spy with my little eye". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved 25 May 2012. "The game isn't especially old and the first record of it that I can find is in The Winnipeg Free Press, December 1937: "Other games ... are: What is My Thought Like, I Spy With My Little Eye (children love this) and Bird, Beast, Flower or Fish."" 
  5. ^ "My LIttle Eye". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 May 2012.