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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Another service, the Marina Bay Ferry, began making trips to Quincy and Boston from Winthrop three years ago when Winthrop officials launched a pilot program, according to Maureen Geary, Quincy’s business director. Abigail Feldman, BostonGlobe.com, "Ferries provide a transportation alternative around the South Shore," 8 Aug. 2019 His Administration’s most aggressive enforcement measures have centered on El Paso, starting with the family-separation policy, which began as a pilot program in the border city in the summer of 2017. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, "An El Paso Immigration Lawyer Advocates for the Victims of Mass Violence," 8 Aug. 2019 None of the officers are a part of IMPD's body camera pilot program, so video is not available. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "After fatal IMPD shooting, gun's location raises questions Chief Roach can't answer," 7 Aug. 2019 The project has several iterations, each focusing on different fields of study, including STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and more recently, a pilot business program. Lilly Nguyen, Daily Pilot, "Warrior-Scholar Project ‘boot camp’ at UCI puts military members on the front line of education," 7 Aug. 2019 The pilot program in Plano and Frisco is expected to kick off this summer, and the first deliveries should follow in 2020. Orla Mccaffrey, Dallas News, "Self-driving trucks are cruising down I-45 between Dallas and Houston," 6 Aug. 2019 The company has five pilot programs to prove their concept can be applied to real world scenarios, including three in the United States: a convenience store, a data center, and an office building. Chase Purdy, Quartz, "Scientists are using the cold of outer space to rethink air conditioning," 5 Aug. 2019 But her case is one of 56,000 in a Trump administration pilot program in 10 cities from Baltimore to Los Angeles aimed at fast-tracking court hearings to discourage migrants from making the journey to seek refuge in the United States. Washington Post, "Trump administration pushes to speed up migrant family cases," 3 Aug. 2019 This past February, the department negotiated a free 90-day pilot program with Axon, in which the company provided 17 body cameras and two in-car cameras. Anthony Clark Carpio, Burbank Leader, "After a successful trial, Burbank officials OK body-worn cameras for police," 3 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In 1995, Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot the space shuttle. National Geographic, "Episode 7: The Glass Stratosphere," 23 July 2019 Tam, 69, and Christy, 73, died together on Friday when the plane Christy was piloting crashed into a mountain on the north side of Tern Lake on the Kenai Peninsula. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage couple killed in Tern Lake plane crash were devoted naturalists, volunteers," 1 July 2019 Before the opener of Bochy’s final series in San Diego, fans stood and cheered the man who piloted the Giants to three World Series titles and is retiring after this season. John Shea, SFChronicle.com, "Padres honor Giants’ Bruce Bochy: ‘I’ve had some great times here’," 26 July 2019 Independent research will also be conducted as the Hope Squad program is piloted in Cincinnati and elsewhere. Cincinnati Va Medical Center, Cincinnati.com, "Hope Squad provides Veterans with peer-to-peer emotional support," 15 July 2019 Boeing, meanwhile, hopes to launch its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on an uncrewed test flight to the space station late this summer, followed by the company's first piloted flight by end of year. William Harwood, CBS News, "Explosion that destroyed SpaceX Crew Dragon is blamed on leaking valve," 15 July 2019 The students built robots and piloted them through an obstacle course, and designed prototypes to pick up trash. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Escondido schools offer math, science, coding camps," 1 July 2019 Prevention is Difficult Preventing vessel strikes requires both a deeper understanding of whale biology and deeper awareness of whales from people piloting vessels. Jason Nark, National Geographic, "Whales are dying along East Coast—and scientists are racing to understand why," 13 Mar. 2019 From digging around in the back of the truck after dark to piloting singletrack through the night, modern headlamps are probably one of the most indispensable and underrated tools for being in the woods. Aaron Gulley, Outside Online, "The 3 Best Headlamps for #Vanlife," 5 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pilot

Statistics for pilot

Last Updated

13 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pilot

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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)

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


a wrong name or inappropriate designation

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!