pi·​lot | \ ˈpī-lət How to pronounce pilot (audio) \

Definition of pilot

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : 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
4 : a piece that guides a tool or machine part
5 : a television show produced and filmed or taped as a sample of a proposed series


piloted; piloting; pilots

Definition of pilot (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to act as a guide to : lead or conduct over a usually difficult course
2a : to set and conn the course of pilot a ship
b : to act as pilot of pilot a plane



Definition of pilot (Entry 3 of 3)

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

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Other Words from pilot


pilotless \ ˈpī-​lət-​ləs How to pronounce pilotless (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for pilot

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of pilot in a Sentence

Noun the airline is seeking experienced pilots to fly the new airplane Verb He is learning how to pilot a helicopter. He skillfully piloted the ship into port during the storm. Adjective The group conducted a pilot program. a new pilot program to train inner-city residents for jobs in the tech sector
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The move will also affect pilots, flight attendants and mechanics who work on 777s. Author: Kelly Yamanouchi, Anchorage Daily News, "Delta retiring giant Boeing 777s from fleet amid travel plunge," 17 May 2020 Christina Mauser, the girls' basketball coach at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, was also killed, as well as the pilot, Ara Zobayan. Fox News, "Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna died instantly in helicopter crash, autopsy reveals," 16 May 2020 The pilot, whose name has not been released, ejected from the aircraft and was taken to the base hospital, said Ilka Cole, chief of media operations for the 96th Test Wing Public Affairs office. Jim Thompson, USA TODAY, "Fighter jet crashes at Eglin Air Force Base; pilot ejected and taken to base hospital," 15 May 2020 Smith conceded the race Wednesday after results tallied so far showed Garcia, a former Navy pilot, winning 56% of the vote, compared to Smith's 44%. Kerry Picket, Washington Examiner, "Mike Garcia wins California special election, flipping House seat back to GOP," 13 May 2020 The pilots, all male, received hazardous-duty pay for flights into the combat zone. Sarah Rose, Washington Post, "During the Vietnam War, the women who served on special Pan Am flights flew into a war zone to transport soldiers. Why has their role been forgotten?," 13 May 2020 The organization funding the Democracy Live pilot in West Virginia, though, Tusk Philanthropies, has much more ambitious long-term goals. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Online Voting Has Worked So Far. That Doesn’t Mean It's Safe," 12 May 2020 Vanessa Bryant sued the estate of Ara Zobayan, the pilot, and the charter company that owned the helicopter, Island Express, in February. Nathan Fenno, Los Angeles Times, "Kobe Bryant knew risks of flying before deadly crash, pilot’s brother says," 11 May 2020 Meanwhile, as part of a U.S. criminal investigation, the grand jury has been examining statements made to the FAA by the former chief technical pilot, Mark Forkner, one person said. Peter Robison, Bloomberg.com, "Boeing Suspends Co-Workers of Pilot at Center of Max Scrutiny," 10 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Jon Spencer, Servite soccer: Spencer piloted the Friars to a share of their seventh consecutive Trinity League championship and the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 title. USA TODAY, "Premier award finalists revealed for USA TODAY High School Sports Awards in Los Angeles," 14 May 2020 In the coming months, Delaware and New Jersey will join West Virginia in piloting a remote digital voting system through a company called Democracy Live. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Online Voting Has Worked So Far. That Doesn’t Mean It's Safe," 12 May 2020 Maybe because Hollywood starlet Brie Larson pilots a Sentra in its new ad campaign — but there’s more to it than that. cleveland, "Affordable Nissan Sentra makes your pulse accelerate, until you hit the gas pedal (review)," 9 May 2020 Behnken and Hurley both began their careers as military test pilots and have logged thousands of hours piloting supersonic jets. Jackie Wattles, CNN, "Meet the NASA astronauts who will fly on historic SpaceX mission," 5 May 2020 Walmart began piloting the system in about 100 stores mid-April and will expand to about 1,000 stores in early May. In the next few weeks, around 2,000 locations will offer Express Delivery. Jennifer Aldrich, Better Homes & Gardens, "Walmart's New Express Delivery Service Promises Items in Less Than Two Hours," 1 May 2020 Other times, Ford's piloting hobby has been credited with saving the day. Rachel Yang, EW.com, "Harrison Ford involved in another incident while piloting plane, now under investigation by FAA," 30 Apr. 2020 Boeing now plans another uncrewed test flight later this year, pushing the company's first piloted mission into 2021. William Harwood, CBS News, "SpaceX will launch two astronauts to International Space Station on May 27, NASA says," 17 Apr. 2020 Rite Aid has joined the White House COVID-19 Response Working Group and piloted coronavirus testing at its Philadelphia location for healthcare workers and first responders. Fortune, "How Fortune 500 companies are utilizing their resources and expertise during the coronavirus pandemic," 13 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective There may be some pilot programs that show promise for a few, but nothing that will work for 151,000 homeless people in the state. Willie Brown, SFChronicle.com, "Mike Bloomberg can still beat Trump. But he has no business on a debate stage," 22 Feb. 2020 The pilot service zone will only cover a 6.7 square-mile section of the city, which includes city hall, UAB, the courthouse and other city and county offices in downtown. Anna Beahm | Abeahm@al.com, al, "Birmingham launches on-demand transit service," 3 Dec. 2019 The first group date involves a pilot training course. Lia Beck, refinery29.com, "The Bachelor Season 24 Premiere Recap: Return Of The Windmill," 7 Jan. 2020 There will be pilot projects such as improved lighting on Governors Drive west of Memorial Parkway, a piece of substantial public art and a new park. Lee Roop | Lroop@al.com, al, "Huntsville begins makeover of its west side," 12 Dec. 2019 With their alignment algorithm, Gross’s team was able to use 100 mirrors on a pilot thermal plant that produced 250 kW of thermal power. Akshat Rathi, Quartz, "Harnessing the sun’s heat for industry could cut 10% of global carbon emissions," 20 Nov. 2019 Unfortunately, that’s where the pilot survival kit goes. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Airmen in Subzero Temps Discover F-35 Survival Kit Works Better Than Advertised," 21 Nov. 2019 In anticipation of such a clinical peak, the researchers at Johns Hopkins set up a pilot study of 20 women to try to figure out how to screen potential donors of cervicovaginal secretions, which could then be used for transplants. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Transplanting poop can be beneficial—swapping vaginal fluids may be even better," 27 Sep. 2019 The pilot service zone will only cover a 6.7 square-mile section of the city, which includes city hall, UAB, the courthouse and other city and county offices in downtown. Anna Beahm | Abeahm@al.com, al, "Birmingham council to consider microtransit pilot program," 24 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pilot.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pilot


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1915, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for 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

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Time Traveler for pilot

Time Traveler

The first known use of pilot was in the 15th century

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Statistics for pilot

Last Updated

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pilot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pilot. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for pilot


How to pronounce pilot (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pilot

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: 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



English Language Learners Definition of pilot (Entry 2 of 3)

: to fly (an airplane, spacecraft, etc.)
: to steer or guide (a ship)



English Language Learners Definition of pilot (Entry 3 of 3)

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


pi·​lot | \ ˈpī-lət How to pronounce pilot (audio) \

Kids Definition of pilot

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who flies an aircraft
2 : a person who steers a ship
3 : a person especially qualified to guide ships into and out of a port or in dangerous waters


piloted; piloting

Kids Definition of pilot (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to fly (an airplane)
2 : to steer or guide (a boat)

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More from Merriam-Webster on pilot

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pilot

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pilot

Spanish Central: Translation of pilot

Nglish: Translation of pilot for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pilot for Arabic Speakers

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