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 pilotless (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for pilot

Synonyms: Noun

airman, aviator, birdman, flier (also flyer)

Synonyms: Verb

coach, counsel, guide, lead, mentor, shepherd, show, tutor

Synonyms: Adjective

developmental, experimental, trial

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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

Haise, the mission’s lunar module pilot, was set to become the just the sixth person to walk on the lunar surface, right after Apollo 13 Mission Commander Jim Lovell, who would become the fifth. Fox News, "Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise recounts ill-fated mission: 'We never got to the edge of the cliff'," 13 July 2019 Jim Bridenstine, the former Oklahoma congressman and Navy pilot picked by President Trump to be the agency’s administrator, said in an interview. Kenneth Chang, New York Times, "Why Everyone Wants to Go Back to the Moon," 12 July 2019 Command module pilot Michael Collins flew on Gemini 10 with future Apollo 16 moon walker John Young. Curtis Roelle, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Star Points: On the occasion of its golden anniversary, looking back at the first moon landing," 12 July 2019 The extent of the pilot’s injuries following the crash in a forest preserve was not immediately known, said Jim Theobald, acting battalion chief for the Wheeling Fire Department. Alejandro Serrano, chicagotribune.com, "1 injured in Wheeling plane crash," 12 July 2019 The two-minute-long ride will feature a barrel roll and a sweeping Immelmann loop named after a German pilot who used the flying maneuver in World War I. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Coastal Commission says it’s a go for SeaWorld’s tallest roller coaster ever," 12 July 2019 Wochit Retired Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath went on national television Tuesday to announce her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and promptly fired a Sidewinder missile into her own foot. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "Amy McGrath fired first-day missile at her own foot, not at Mitch McConnell," 11 July 2019 Since then, a number of different companies have offered similar pilots around the country. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Self-driving shuttle crashed in Las Vegas because manual controls were locked away," 11 July 2019 The effort extends a similar 2018 pilot effort with 23 community organizations. Anna Beahm | Abeahm@al.com, al.com, "Birmingham puts $147K toward conflict resolution efforts," 9 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Georgia recently piloted a system running on Windows 7 that was praised by state officials. Tami Abdollah, latimes.com, "Outdated software could make new voting systems vulnerable to hackers," 14 July 2019 Georgia recently piloted a system running on Windows 7 that was praised by state officials. Washington Post, "AP Exclusive: New election systems use vulnerable software," 13 July 2019 Uber hopes that its air-taxi service, Uber Air, which will use piloted eVTOL aircraft, will be allowed to take off in 2023. The Economist, "The advent of helicopter-hailing apps," 11 July 2019 The state’s Unified Judicial System is piloting a program that will eventually allow the public access to court records from any computer. USA TODAY, "Ink library, parking barnacles, lunar training grounds: News from around our 50 states," 9 July 2019 His organization has piloted data trusts and expects to have one operational next year in Britain. Matt Mcfarland, CNN, "Alphabet's plans to track people in its 'smart city' ring alarm bells," 9 July 2019 Begany, 63, was piloting the single-engine Piper Club that crashed in a field south of the Elyria Airport. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland.com, "June was a soaker in Cleveland, Akron and around Ohio: The Wake Up for Tuesday, July 2, 2019," 2 July 2019 Instead, the Census Bureau is piloting many new initiatives to reduce overall costs to $15.6 billion. Rebecca Tippett, Vox, "The citizenship question is blocked for now. But demographers are still worried about the census.," 27 June 2019 Thirteen countries, including Uganda, are piloting this strategy. Nina Strochlic, National Geographic, "In Uganda, a unique urban experiment is under way," 17 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Perhaps the most interesting sight is the X-10 Graphite Reactor National Historic Landmark, a pilot nuclear reactor that once produced plutonium. William M. Gurstelle, Twin Cities, "Good ol’ Rocky Top: Visit the history, music, science of northeast Tennessee," 15 June 2019 In San Jose, a pilot program offering financial assistance to families with unexpected expenses has kept about 500 families housed over the past year, and the City Council recently voted to extend the program. Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards, The Mercury News, "Editorial: Don’t give up on efforts to house the homeless," 4 June 2019 In the Swedish city of Luleå, steelmaker SSAB AB, iron-ore miner Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB and power-generator Vattenfall AB are jointly building a pilot steel factory that will use hydrogen in place of coking coal. Rhiannon Hoyle, WSJ, "Miners Test Greener Ways to Dig," 16 July 2018 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

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

16 Jul 2019

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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pilot

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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