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noun pi·lot \ˈpī-lət\

Simple Definition of pilot

  • : a person who flies an airplane, helicopter, etc.

  • : a person who steers or guides a ship into and out of a port or in dangerous waters

  • : a single television show that is made as a test to see if a television series based on the show would be popular and successful

Full Definition of pilot

  1. 1 a :  one employed to steer a ship :  helmsman b :  a person who is qualified and usually licensed to conduct a ship into and out of a port or in specified waters c :  a person who flies or is qualified to fly an aircraft or spacecraft

  2. 2 :  guide, leader

  3. 3 :  cowcatcher

  4. 4 :  a piece that guides a tool or machine part

  5. 5 :  a television show produced and filmed or taped as a sample of a proposed series

  6. 6 :  pilot light 1

pi·lot·less play \-ləs\ adjective

Examples of pilot

  1. <the airline is seeking experienced pilots to fly the new airplane>

Origin of pilot

Middle French pilote, from Italian pilota, alteration of pedota, from Middle Greek *pēdōtēs, from Greek pēda steering oars, plural of pēdon oar; probably akin to Greek pod-, pous foot — more at foot

First Known Use: 15th century

Other Aeronautics/Aerospace Terms

Rhymes with pilot



verb pi·lot

Simple Definition of pilot

  • : to fly (an airplane, spacecraft, etc.)

  • : to steer or guide (a ship)

Full Definition of pilot

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to act as a guide to :  lead or conduct over a usually difficult course

  3. 2 a :  to set and conn the course of <pilot a ship> b :  to act as pilot of <pilot a plane>

Examples of pilot

  1. He is learning how to pilot a helicopter.

  2. He skillfully piloted the ship into port during the storm.


First Known Use of pilot


Synonym Discussion of pilot

guide, lead, steer, pilot, engineer mean to direct in a course or show the way to be followed. guide implies intimate knowledge of the way and of all its difficulties and dangers <guided the scouts through the cave>. lead implies showing the way and often keeping those that follow under control and in order <led his team to victory>. steer implies an ability to keep to a course and stresses the capacity of maneuvering correctly <steered the ship through a narrow channel>. pilot suggests guidance over a dangerous or complicated course <piloted the bill through the Senate>. engineer implies finding ways to avoid or overcome difficulties in achieving an end or carrying out a plan <engineered his son's election to the governorship>.

Other Aeronautics/Aerospace Terms



adjective pi·lot

Simple Definition of pilot

  • : done as a test to see if a larger program, study, etc., should be done

Full Definition of pilot

  1. :  serving as a guiding or tracing device, an activating or auxiliary unit, or a trial apparatus or operation <a pilot study>

Examples of pilot

  1. The group conducted a pilot program.

  2. <a new pilot program to train inner-city residents for jobs in the tech sector>


First Known Use of pilot


Seen and Heard

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February 13, 2016

a trying or distressing experience

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