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 Brezinski, who was a pilot, and Grishina were seeing each other for about a year and would take occasional trips down to Florida in his plane. Lillian Reed, baltimoresun.com, "Towson couple killed in plane crash near Florida Keys, officials say," 10 Sep. 2019 The Culinary Apprenticeship program is a pilot, and YMO hopes to continue it in the future with new groups of youth. La Cañada Valley Sun, "The Valley Line: Aspiring chefs given taste of success with Hillsides dinner," 3 Sep. 2019 Get our daily newsletter But BALPA says its pilots also want a share of BA’s profits. The Economist, "What lies behind the strike that has grounded British Airways," 12 Sep. 2019 Dan Kitwood/Getty Images British Airways canceled most flights scheduled for Monday and Tuesday after its pilots went on strike over their demand for higher pay, upending the travel plans of about 195,000 passengers. New York Times, "Pilots’ Strike Prompts British Airways to Cancel 1,700 Flights," 9 Sep. 2019 Or when the Kamikaze Kates’ craft left without its pilot. Deanna Weniger, Twin Cities, "Minneapolis’ ‘Spooner’s Revenge’ wins Red Bull Flugtag event after placing second in 2010," 7 Sep. 2019 One of the people killed was Ben Davidson, chief pilot for a museum of antique planes that hosts the event. SFChronicle.com, "News of the Day From Across the Nation," 7 Sep. 2019 After their successful pilot aired in July 2018, Heather and Brad Fox are back with eight new episodes, which will take viewers into the depths of snowy Minnesota and its booming real estate market. Selena Barrientos, House Beautiful, "HGTV’s Stay or Sell Shows Off Minneapolis’ Charm and Booming Real Estate Market," 5 Sep. 2019 Truth is, the Cowboys’ offense was on auto pilot for much of the night. Gary Horowitz For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Neither Oregon State’s defense nor an elevator malfunction can stop Oklahoma State’s offense," 31 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Likewise with Illinois' Brandon Peters (Michigan), who has piloted the Illini to a pair of wins to ease the pressure on coach Lovie Smith. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Early surprises - both good and bad - after two full weeks of the college football season," 10 Sep. 2019 Serbian officials said China has agreed the sale of armed drones, marking the first export of Chinese remotely piloted aircraft to a European country. Washington Post, "China to boost Serb military with drones, other equipment," 10 Sep. 2019 Also killed was Matthew Titus of Turlock (Stanislaus County), who was piloting the Super Cub airplane. SFChronicle.com, "News of the Day From Across the Nation," 7 Sep. 2019 Nike started piloting a sneaker club for kids two years ago. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, "Nike launches a sneaker subscription service for kids," 12 Aug. 2019 Sinema said Arizona could be a good option given its history piloting successful programs at the border, such as Unified Cargo Processing. Rafael Carranza, azcentral, "Sen. Kyrsten Sinema pushes program to streamline removal of migrant families without valid asylum claims," 18 July 2019 Adding to the frenzy is former Formula One racing champion Nico Rosberg, who chimed in on Twitter, offering to pilot the Tesla. Los Angeles Times, "Porsche, Tesla face off for electric-vehicle crown on famed German race track," 13 Sep. 2019 The video shows the aircraft — which belonged to pilot David Lesh who was flying with his friend Kayla, CNN reported Wednesday — falling through the air and landing in the water. Ashley Boucher, PEOPLE.com, "Plane's Engine Fails and Its Emergency Landing in the Ocean Was Caught on Camera," 21 Aug. 2019 There are two prongs to this one: Matt Chapman puts together a remarkable second half to pilot the A’s into a wild-card spot and earns AL MVP honors over Mike Trout. The Si Staff, SI.com, "Predictions: What Will Happen in the Second Half of the Season?," 12 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Drivers heading north on the highway will run into the pilot car line at mile 70, near Watson Lake. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Sterling Highway open with pilot cars as wet, windy weather calms Swan Lake fire spread," 1 Sep. 2019 However, there is a flash of a mysterious, pilot funeral scene. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "'Top Gun 2': Everything we know about 'Maverick' after Tom Cruise drops first trailer," 18 July 2019 Drivers heading south will encounter a pilot car at mile 40 of the Sterling Highway, north of the Quartz Creek campground. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Sterling Highway open with pilot cars as wet, windy weather calms Swan Lake fire spread," 1 Sep. 2019 Milwaukee decided to allow the scooters if the companies agree to enter a pilot study to examine best practices. Keith Schubert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee learning from other cities' woes while rolling out e-scooters," 22 July 2019 The taps will mostly be pilot program beers, which Althouse described as fresh, non-aged beers that Dan Russo, Oakshire’s director of brewing, has been given full creative license to produce. Andre Meunier, oregonlive.com, "Oakshire Brewing of Eugene opens NE Portland beer hall in former home of Old Salt," 22 July 2019 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

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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Learn More about pilot

Statistics for pilot

Last Updated

5 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for pilot

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

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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

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).


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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