pi·lot | \ ˈpī-lət \

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

2 : guide, leader

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 \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for pilot

Synonyms: Noun

airman, aviator, birdman, flier (also flyer)

Synonyms: Verb

conduct, direct, guide, lead, marshal (also marshall), route, show, steer, usher

Synonyms: Adjective

developmental, experimental, trial

Antonyms: Verb

follow, trail

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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


the airline is seeking experienced pilots to fly the new airplane


He is learning how to pilot a helicopter. He skillfully piloted the ship into port during the storm.


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

Institutional investors overseeing more than $8 trillion in assets have written in support of the pilot. Gretchen Morgenson, WSJ, "NYSE Opposition to Trading-Fee Review Puts Companies and Some Shareholders at Odds," 11 July 2018 Performers for the air show include: the Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, and the Patriots Jet Team, which is made up of pilots who were formerly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Spud Hilton, SFChronicle.com, "Festivals: Five best excuses to re-discover Reno," 27 June 2018 He was also licensed as a private and commercial pilot. John Sowell, idahostatesman, "Comedy routine that went awry led to pilot's death at Mountain Home airshow, report says," 26 June 2018 Sharp-eyed fans will glimpse the first movie's leading lady, Chantel Grover, in a tourist group and head ranger Dave Nufer as the sleepy pilot. Donna Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, "Tundra creator back with second feature-length film, ‘Sudsy Slim Rides Again’," 21 June 2018 However, their wedding would have to wait as George went on to serve the US Navy as a pilot in World War II. Stacey Leasca, ajc, "George Bush reportedly said this to Barbara every night during their 73 years of marriage," 14 June 2018 The Bradley family was closely involved in the war effort: Bradley’s father, Eric enlisted in the British Royal Air Force on his 18th birthday and fought in the North African campaign, while his uncle, Victor served as a pilot. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "$2 Million in World War II-Era Cash Found Under Floor of Churchill’s Tailor," 14 June 2018 As part of the district’s system of supports, the agency provided counseling services to students at the three high schools and as a pilot at three middle schools over the past year. Suzanne Baker, Naperville Sun, "There's a growing trend of Naperville-area students being caught vaping, sometimes with THC," 13 June 2018 However, their wedding would have to wait as George went on to serve the US Navy as a pilot in World War II. Stacey Leasca, Southern Living, "WATCH: George Bush Reportedly Said This to Barbara Every Night During Their 73 Years of Marriage," 13 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Construction of the $1-billion expansion began last year and is expected to feature two attractions, including a ride that lets visitors pilot the Millennium Falcon, the spaceship flown by Han Solo and Chewbacca in the movies. Hugo Martin, latimes.com, "Pixar Pier is Disney's latest effort to pump up California Adventure," 21 June 2018 An expert in special education, Williams has designed, developed, and piloted her school model in New Orleans through 4.0 Schools. Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star, "Charter school grants attract national talent to Indianapolis," 25 May 2018 During her appearance in The Queen’s Green Planet, Jolie also wowed fans around the world by nonchalantly piloting and landing a small plane over the Namibian desert. Michael Miller, PEOPLE.com, "Angelina Jolie Talks About Her Fight to End Deforestation -- and Knox Learning to Fly a Plane!," 20 Apr. 2018 At the third to last fence, Poretz made his move and piloted the bay gelding home for the win in a time of 6:01 1/5. Maryanna Skowronski, The Aegis, "Zanclus takes My Lady's Manor Steeplechase on a beautiful day for racing," 15 Apr. 2018 Johnson’s character is an ex-soldier, a man who can bash any skull in front of him, pilot any vehicle, and fire any weapon. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Rampage Is a Big, Noisy Nothing," 13 Apr. 2018 In the aughts, LA's Koji BBQ food truck, piloted by a Korean-American chef, essentially launched an American street-food revolution with spicy pork tacos and kimchi quesadillas. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Andersonville’s Passerotto is a tale of two peninsulas," 21 June 2018 The long-in-the-making biopic debuted to an underwhelming $1.7 million despite a high-profile publicity campaign piloted by Travolta himself. Pamela Mcclintock, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Gotti': How John Travolta Tried — and Failed — to Save His Passion Project," 18 June 2018 Two planes piloted by terrorists destroyed the trade center complex six weeks later. Karen Matthews, The Christian Science Monitor, "Three World Trade Center marks important step in site's rebuilding," 11 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Within the pilot study area, any current on-street time restriction would become a flat three-hour limit. Steve Schering, chicagotribune.com, "Oak Park officials debate parking pilot program; more discussions set in June," 21 May 2018 Chukoskie met a lot of young adults like Baramki-Azar during the pilot study. Sarah Deweerdt, Science | AAAS, "Can science-based video games help kids with autism?," 22 June 2018 Sacramento is one of seven North American cities selected to participate in a pilot program offering incentives to Uber drivers who use electric vehicles, the ride-sharing company announced Tuesday. Michael Mcgough, sacbee, "Uber teams up with SMUD to offer new cash incentives. There's just one condition," 19 June 2018 But he was assured by the terms of the contract; NuSI would have no control over the pilot study’s design, operation, or reporting. Megan Molteni, WIRED, "The Collapse of a $40 Million Nutrition Science Crusade," 18 June 2018 In one of the trials -- a pilot study -- the patients who received the diabetes drug did not get any worse for two years while the control group, who received a standard treatment for Parkinson's, deteriorated significantly. Christian Holscher, CNN, "New approach to Alzheimer's fight: Diabetes drugs," 15 June 2018 Another pilot prosecution project was implemented in the El Paso area at the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year. Mark Dent, Anchorage Daily News, "Sessions vows to prosecute all illegal border crossers and separate children from their parents," 8 May 2018 Commission members also voted to direct staff to develop, monitor and enforce guest, night passes and second car passes within the pilot study area as a way to ensure local residents have parking priority. Steve Schering, chicagotribune.com, "'There’s got to be measurable goals': Oak Park transportation commission seeks task force to monitor parking pilot," 1 May 2018 Mayor Darrell Steinberg and other Sacramento leaders consider the pilot program central to achieving their goal of housing 2,000 homeless people by 2020. Cynthia Hubert, sacbee, "City homeless program offers bonuses to groups attending meetings and writing policies | The Sacramento Bee," 5 May 2018

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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Statistics for pilot

Last Updated

10 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pilot

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

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More Definitions for pilot



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 \

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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Comments on pilot

What made you want to look up pilot? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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