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 Like the author, Radford had to give up his boyhood dream of being a pilot because of a health condition. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: San Diego author Richard Farrell lost his dream career, and he couldn’t be happier," 8 May 2021 Green Minneapolis Board Chair David Wilson has asked Minneapolis' Sustainability Office for $2.25 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds to set up a one-year pilot. Susan Du, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis explores carbon credits to help reforest the city," 6 May 2021 The city launched the program as a small pilot in the Lents neighborhood early this year. oregonlive, "Commissioner Dan Ryan supports slow, ‘methodical’ expansion of Portland Street Response program," 6 May 2021 Another, starring Naomi Watts, filmed a pilot but was ultimately shelved by the network. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Welcome to the 'House of the Dragon': HBO releases photos from 'Game of Thrones' prequel," 5 May 2021 Clementz defended the move, saying Walmart had been testing a pilot for overseas sellers that has been well-received with customers and gave Walmart confidence to open it up more widely. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, "Walmart's online store isn't profitable. Now it's borrowing from Amazon's playbook," 4 May 2021 Up and away: Michael Leipold, a helicopter pilot from Xenia and political newcomer, is making a bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year, writes Bonnie Meibers for the Dayton Daily News. cleveland, "Former Attorney General Rich Cordray tapped by Biden administration to oversee student loans: Capitol Letter," 4 May 2021 Kroger is diving into drone delivery, starting a pilot at a store near its Cincinnati headquarters. BostonGlobe.com, "Greater Boston chamber hires Crockett as program consultant," 3 May 2021 Dallas ISD awarded Ruzo’s company a contract to work on a pilot to boost internet access in the neighborhood surrounding Pinkston High School in West Dallas. Dallas News, "Can Dallas County help close the digital divide? Commissioner J.J. Koch thinks so.," 3 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The proposal by Supervisors Dean Preston and Matt Haney, if approved, would use one-time funds to pilot free Muni for all riders between July and September. Ricardo Cano, San Francisco Chronicle, "Muni services are ramping up for the June 15 reopening. Will cable cars be included?," 6 May 2021 Garoppolo, who in the 2019 season helped pilot the 49ers to Super Bowl 54, was described by Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in the aftermath of the trade as firmly in the team's plans for 2021. Michael Middlehurst-schwartz, USA TODAY, "49ers pull surprise by drafting QB Trey Lance with No. 3 pick in NFL draft," 30 Apr. 2021 But even people who shell out for Full Self-Driving don’t own a self-driving car, and vehicles with Autopilot can’t automatically pilot themselves. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "A Fatal Crash Renews Concerns Over Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ Claim," 20 Apr. 2021 Many operate illegally, and most of the fishermen who pilot them eke out a living at or below the poverty line. Richard Pallardy, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Gulf of California May Be an Overlooked Home for Great White Sharks," 19 Apr. 2021 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Ryan Williams, with the Utah Driver License Division, displays his cellphone with the pilot version of the state's mobile ID on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in West Valley City. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah plans to launch digital driver license program next year," 9 May 2021 In Utah, over 100 people have a pilot version of the state’s mobile ID, and that number is expected to grow to 10,000 by year’s end. al, "Mobile driver’s licenses? Pandemic gives boost as more states move to digital IDs," 8 May 2021 Earlier this year, the city introduced a pilot program to quell rising gang violence. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘My brother didn’t deserve it’: San Diego County homicides up 35 percent in 2020," 8 May 2021 Buy Beta is a pilot program that started a month ago in Iowa, and parts of Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. Catherine Roberts, Star Tribune, "$200 to be a member at Best Buy? Retailer launches membership pilot program in Twin Cities," 3 May 2021 The city is nearing a pilot program to divert particular mental health calls to BCRI. Justin Fenton, baltimoresun.com, "Can Baltimore end the War on Drugs? As Marilyn Mosby takes lead on decriminalization, few public health alternatives are in place," 30 Apr. 2021 The Michigan State Police had a pilot program to test oral swabs as of 2019. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan GOP lawmaker wants to create a marijuana blood-level limit for drivers," 28 Apr. 2021 The plan was to start with a pilot program of sorts in Phuket this summer, and then five other provinces to follow in the fall. Will Mcgough, Forbes, "Thailand’s Tourism Reopening Could Be In Doubt With New COVID-19 Surge," 27 Apr. 2021 Oakland is launching a pilot program to replace armed police with civilian specialists. Time, "To Protect the Next George Floyd, We Must Remove the Threat of Police Violence from Everyday Life," 20 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

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pilot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pilot. Accessed 15 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)

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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