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
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

Other Words from pilot


pilotless \ ˈpī-​lət-​ləs How to pronounce pilot (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
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Concessionaire Levy is evaluating the pilot program as way to enhance services at more remote locations. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 9 May 2022 In open session, the council approved extending the Accessory Dwelling Unit pilot program. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 May 2022 The pilot program had lower income limits and fewer mortgage servicers participating than the full program. Ginny Monk, Hartford Courant, 6 May 2022 The crew underwent an elaborate pilot training program established by Cruise for the flight shots. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, 5 May 2022 Castillo asked city staff to outline the budget and performance metrics for a pilot program dubbed San Antonio Volunteer Exemption for Seniors, or SAVES. Megan Stringer, San Antonio Express-News, 5 May 2022 Partnership with Talbert House will provide crisis line Along with this pilot program is a new partnership between the city and Talbert House to provide a crisis line for those considering suicide or experiencing another mental health crisis. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, 5 May 2022 Alaska’s management attributed the April chaos to a shortage of pilots after the omicron virus surge disrupted its pilot-training program in the spring. Dominic Gates, Anchorage Daily News, 4 May 2022 Seven high schools, which hire outside venders for their cafeterias are taking place in a pilot program serving only vegetarian or pescatarian lunches. Nick Romeo, The New Yorker, 4 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Real, a mental health app that offers programming on topics including relationships and body positivity, plans to pilot a four-day workweek, running next week through June, to give employees more time to rest and focus on their families. New York Times, 30 Mar. 2022 Grosjean was so successful in his rookie year that he was picked up by Andretti Autosport to pilot the No. 28 car, previously driven by 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Joseph Wolkin, Forbes, 25 Mar. 2022 Ukrainian airmen can already pilot, and several EU member states intend to comply soon. Peter Weber, The Week, 27 Feb. 2022 Among those in the crowd were former players, including two beloved ones, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley, who helped pilot Krzyzewski to his first two national titles in 1991 and 1992. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, 3 Apr. 2022 Aseembly Bill 2336 would allow the Bay Area’s three largest cities and Los Angeles to pilot speed cameras for five years. Ricardo Cano, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Mar. 2022 The administration’s proposal would limit how high and fast drones can fly and set up a vetting process to decide who can pilot them. The Editors, Outside Online, 17 Feb. 2015 This hands-free tech allows the driver to let the 7-series pilot itself during highway stints. Drew Dorian, Car and Driver, 4 Apr. 2022 The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund received a $1 million grant from Principal Foundation to pilot the program and work with Akron and other Financial Empowerment Center partners. Megan Becka, cleveland, 22 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In 2020, the Bureau of Prisons started a pilot program to convert mail to electronic scans at some facilities, to combat drug smuggling through official correspondence, according to the two lawmakers. Byluke Barr, ABC News, 29 Apr. 2022 Today Mars is announcing a pilot program to double the income of 14,000 farmers in its cocoa supply chain by 2030. Shayna Harris, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 Build Institute also has a pilot program at 1620 Michigan Ave. Chanel Stitt, Detroit Free Press, 28 Apr. 2022 Earlier this month, Israel began a pilot program to fast-track entry permits and 90-day work visas for foreign tech workers with Israeli tech employment contracts. Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2022 The home improvement store chain is teaming up with Petco on a pilot store-in-store program that brings pet products such as food, beds and toys, and services like grooming and vaccinations to select Lowe’s locations. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, 27 Jan. 2022 The pilot property-tax program passed Saturday by China’s legislature will run for five years, starting from the date when details of the trials’ implementation are released, according to Xinhua. Lingling Wei, WSJ, 23 Oct. 2021 In January 2021 the brand also kicked off a pilot mentorship program, which uses the brand’s extensive network, thanks to its founders and executives, to help cannabis brands with equity licenses scale up and access business opportunities. Jackie Bryant, Forbes, 11 Mar. 2021 In December, one of its volunteers — the emergency medical officer at Tucson Medical Center — helped the charity launch a pilot mass-vaccination program in Pima County, Arizona. Star Tribune, 5 Mar. 2021 See More

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.

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

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pilot's luff

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Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pilot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pilot. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for pilot


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)

More from Merriam-Webster on pilot

Nglish: Translation of pilot for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pilot for Arabic Speakers


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