pay·​load ˈpā-ˌlōd How to pronounce payload (audio)
plural payloads
: the load carried by a vehicle exclusive of what is necessary for its operation
especially : the load carried by an aircraft or spacecraft consisting of people or things (such as passengers or instruments) necessary to the purpose of the flight
NASA's first post-Challenger launching is tentatively set for May 1. Its payload, the NOAA-G weather satellite, will be lofted by an expendable Scout rocket. J. Eberhart
Their objective was to size the airplane according to its intended payload. Clive Irving
: the weight of a payload
… the Bronco had a payload of 2000 pounds.Darryl Young
Maximum fuel load is 3,550 pounds, leaving a payload of just 360 pounds with full tanks.J. Mac McClellan
: the destructive component carried by a missile or bomb
… they did not fail to realize that a missile powerful enough to put a satellite into orbit could also deliver a nuclear payload to Washington, D.C., or New York, or Chicago, or any major American city.Alex Wellerstein
also : something likened to such a payload
American computer security experts were first to spot another worm whose virus payload was contained within an e-mail that masqueraded as a virus alert from Symantec. Pacific Business News
Thus, a potential pitfall for using adenoviruses as a vaccine delivery system is that a person's immune system may end up responding more to the adenovirus itself than the vaccine's genetic payloadBeth Mole

Examples of payload in a Sentence

The truck is carrying a payload of 2,580 pounds. the space shuttle can carry a maximum payload of approximately 50,000 pounds
Recent Examples on the Web As its primary payload, the Certification 1 mission will carry a lunar lander built by Astrobotic, which will attempt to make a soft touchdown on the Moon early next year. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, 15 Nov. 2023 Bailey and co say a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket could deliver a 2500kg payload towards an incoming asteroid. Discover Magazine, 30 Oct. 2023 The drones have a roughly nine-mile range, depending on payload size. Serhii Korolchuk, Washington Post, 4 Oct. 2023 The drone team showed us other videos, which, according to the soldiers, showed Punisher drones earlier that morning accurately dropping their payload onto Russian military vehicles. Tom Soufi Burridge, ABC News, 29 Sep. 2023 At the end of the day, the best slingshots are ones that will deliver the payload with authority while being easy to handle. Jim Cobb, Field & Stream, 13 Sep. 2023 Depending on how tests go and the specific requirements of the situation, LTA expects the airship to have a payload of between 4,400 and 11,000 pounds. Harry Guinness, Popular Science, 9 Nov. 2023 For now, SpaceX has demonstrated the capabilities and safety record to carry these payloads. Jon Gertner, New York Times, 8 Nov. 2023 The Ramcharger is rated to tow up to 14,000 pounds and can carry a payload up to 2,625 pounds. Umar Shakir, The Verge, 7 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'payload.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1914, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of payload was in 1914

Dictionary Entries Near payload

Cite this Entry

“Payload.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pay·​load ˈpā-ˌlōd How to pronounce payload (audio)
: something (as cargo, passengers, instruments, or explosives) carried by a vehicle in addition to what is necessary for its operation

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