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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Dallas Area Rapid Transit launched its GoLink pilot program for the South Dallas community on Monday. Destine Gibson, Dallas News, "DART launches on-demand GoLink pilot program in South Dallas," 27 Apr. 2021 Airline pilot shortages are a problem that existed even before the pandemic. Laura Forman, WSJ, "Companies Cheered by Post-Covid-19 Demand Have a Supply Problem," 26 Apr. 2021 City was able to celebrate Sunday's victory in front of 8,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium, with the final being used as a pilot event, possibly paving the way for the return of large crowds in United Kingdom stadiums. Ben Church, CNN, "Manchester City clinches fourth consecutive League Cup title as fans return to Wembley Stadium," 25 Apr. 2021 Involved were a generous SFO airport employee and private pilot, two Muni operators turned vaccine couriers, and a team of nurses and doctors ready to inject arms at a San Francisco General. Chronicle Staff, San Francisco Chronicle, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: April 15-21, 2021," 25 Apr. 2021 A quarter of the crowd was made up of City fans — tested in advance for the coronavirus — as part of a pilot event for the return of far larger numbers. Rob Harris, ajc, "Man City beats Tottenham 1-0 to win 4th straight League Cup," 25 Apr. 2021 Contrary to popular myth, pilot error is not the cause of most accidents. Shem Malmquist, Wired, "The Plane Paradox: More Automation Should Mean More Training," 24 Apr. 2021 By May 1, Hawaii also hopes to roll out a pilot vaccine passport for inter-island travel. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, "Vaccine passports: Pandemic spurs rise of portable health records," 23 Apr. 2021 McArthur, the mission's pilot, is married to fellow astronaut Bob Behnken, who was part of the historic first NASA-SpaceX mission last May. Catherine Thorbecke, ABC News, "SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to ISS on recycled rocket and capsule," 23 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In 2018, the Falcons and the Blank Family Foundation approached Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest county in Georgia, to pilot and fully fund a girls’ high school flag football program. al, "AHSAA sanctioning girls flag football for fall of 2021," 6 Apr. 2021 With legs splayed to either side of the steering wheel and arms straight out, and without steering assist, most people will find that the Countach is a workout to pilot. Robert Ross, Robb Report, "Car of the Week: This Lamborghini Countach Is the Time-Capsule Classic You’ve Been Looking For," 15 Mar. 2021 Last year, Walmart partnered with the AI firm Gatik to pilot autonomous fulfillment vehicles in Arkansas. Washington Post, "To the list of places testing driverless cars, add Las Vegas," 22 Feb. 2021 Britain plans to pilot Covid-19 passports at snooker tournaments, comedy clubs and soccer matches over the coming weeks in a scheme already dividing politicians and the public. Zamira Rahim, CNN, "A category five heath crisis," 5 Apr. 2021 Jeremiah also agreed to reform their police force, put a moratorium on sales for profit for a year, protect the squatters, pilot a study of the impact of land sales on the community, and continue to negotiate in good faith. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, The New Republic, "How Housing Activists Took on Philadelphia and Won," 29 Mar. 2021 By early April, the county plans to pilot mobile vaccine distribution, likely in the Springwater Corridor area, to fine-tune the process before expanding it across Portland. oregonlive, "To vaccinate homeless in Portland, more Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccines needed," 19 Mar. 2021 Other new events on the upcoming schedule include: A three-hour long Wetland Canoe Trail, where guests can pilot a canoe, water-level permitting. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "Ride a zip line, go canoeing and seek out wildlife at McKinney’s Heard Museum this spring," 16 Feb. 2021 Three Orange County high schools will pilot a flexible schedule next school year that will allow some students to start classes later in the morning and others to remain on the traditional, early-bell plan. Leslie Postal, orlandosentinel.com, "OCPS to pilot later start times, flexible schedules at three high schools," 24 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective According to the reports, Spain will be taking part in a pilot digital certificate scheme in May and implementing it in June for when tourist arrivals resume. Eric Todisco, PEOPLE.com, "Spain to Welcome International Travelers with COVID-19 Vaccine or Negative Test Starting in June," 28 Apr. 2021 The budget also includes $600,000 for a pilot program to divert certain mental health calls away from cops. BostonGlobe.com, "A quick guide to Providence’s proposed $540 million budget," 28 Apr. 2021 The department began to roll out a pilot video call system in October. Angie Jackson, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan prison system to resume in-person visits March 26: How they'll be different," 12 Mar. 2021 Har'el, who won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance for Honey Boy in 2019, pens the pilot solo and co-writes the remaining episodes with Ryan. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong'o team up for first major TV roles with Lady in the Lake," 10 Mar. 2021 Also on the agenda is an update on BiblioTech Connect, a pilot deployment of a wireless broadband network to help close the digital divide in part of the Southwest Independent School District. Scott Huddleston, ExpressNews.com, "Bexar County leaders to take up COVID-19 programs, federal aid," 1 Dec. 2020 The site of a pilot cultural burn near the town of Orleans, about 45 miles southwest of Happy Camp, shows what the landscape was like before contact: open areas between trees and bushes, with room for elk and deer to meander. AZCentral.com, "'Our right to fire': Tribes battle agencies, old policies to restore fire practices," 25 Nov. 2020 Now, Lululemon plans to start pilot resell projects next year with the goal of giving customers the option to resell or recycle any Lululemon garment by 2025. Phil Wahba, Fortune, "Lululemon announces expanded size range and sustainable fabrics in new good citizenship push," 28 Oct. 2020 Hamilton County Municipal Court is one of eight statewide involved in a pilot program to test holding eviction proceedings online, officials said. Kevin Grasha, The Enquirer, "Online eviction hearings to be available in Hamilton County as part of pilot program," 13 Apr. 2021

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

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pilot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pilot. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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 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

Nglish: Translation of pilot for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pilot for Arabic Speakers

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