To reconnoiter is to gain information about something in a secretive manner, or in other words to do reconnaissance. It is a military term and used when spying on an enemy, usually to aid in planning an attack.

    It comes from an obsolete French word which mean to recognize. And because it is French it has an alternate spelling of reconnoitre, which is the preferred spelling outside the United States. The spelling variation extends to all its forms including: reconnoitered, reconnoitred, reconnoitering, and reconnoitring.


    1. Doug Sundseth says

      One who engages in reconnaissance is more likely to be called a “scout” or “recon scout” than a “spy” (or “reconnoiterer”).

    2. Francis Zanger says

      There is an implication of knowledge relearnt, of things already known, in the use of the prefix ‘re-‘. This is all the more the case given that ‘connaître’ is the French word for ‘to know, to have knowledge of’, and the ‘re-‘ prefix means the same thing in French as in English.

      I suppose, by the time the French had fought the Franco-English War, the Franco-Flemish War, the Hundred Year War, the French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Year War, the Anglo-French War, the… No, I’ll stop there. Anyway, by the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Centuries, you’d probably be hard pressed to find any bit of France that scouts (thanks, Mr. Sundeth!) hadn’t “connoitred” at least once or twice before.

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