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

Among those named was Michael Nash, a Wrangell attorney and pilot who died in a plane crash July 11 near Ketchikan, said diocese spokesman Dominique Johnson. Author: Rachel D'oro, Anchorage Daily News, "7 Alaska clergy members named in Catholic church review of sexual misconduct allegations," 23 Aug. 2019 On Monday, after skipping the races in Bristol, Tennessee, near where his plane crashed after a hard landing, Earnhardt thanked his pilots, emergency responders and hospital workers. Steve Almasy, CNN, "Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has sore back but plans on racing at Darlington," 22 Aug. 2019 By the end of the pilot, this occasional mentor, whose name is Sky (Isaiah Johnson), is revealed to be dead. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "A Rare Show That Explores the Nuances of Black Boyhood," 22 Aug. 2019 Both flights crashed after experiencing drastic speed fluctuations during ascent, and their pilots tried to return to the ground after takeoff. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "Are Max 737s closer to flying? FAA 'looks forward' to international panel's findings as grounding drags on," 21 Aug. 2019 Chief politics writer Seth Richardson is your pilot. Laura Hancock, cleveland.com, "Ohio Speaker Householder’s support of death penalty waning: Capitol Letter," 21 Aug. 2019 We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus. Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win, "Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks out for first time since plane crash: 'We are truly blessed'," 19 Aug. 2019 Sometimes, before sending a plane off to combat, WASPs would leave a note for its next pilot, occasionally sealing the missive with a red-lipsticked kiss. oregonlive.com, "Dorothy Olsen, daring World War II pilot from Oregon, dies at 103," 12 Aug. 2019 Brady would like more people to learn how committed his fellow pilots were to their rescue missions. David Tarrant, Dallas News, "Arlington, Texas, is a finalist for new $150M National Medal of Honor Museum," 25 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Although originally a Cold War program the testing of adversary aircraft continues to this day; in September 2017 a Su-27 Flanker jet piloted by a U.S. Air Force officer crashed in the Nevada Test and Training Range. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The Very Real Aircraft of Area 51," 19 July 2019 Cars piloted by people will soon be less desirable—perhaps even outlawed. A.j. Baime, WSJ, "A Porsche 911 Fan Finds His Car for Life," 26 Mar. 2019 Weber might not have been up in the air, but piloting an exact replica of a 747 isn’t bad for a sixth grader—especially an aviation geek like him. Noah Kaufman, Condé Nast Traveler, "Peter From 'The Bachelorette' Could Be Piloting Your Next Delta Flight," 20 Aug. 2019 Parker, 53, died Friday afternoon in a stunt plane piloted by veteran stunt pilot Franklin Augustus, who also died in the crash. Lee Roop | Lroop@al.com, al, "‘She was my everything,' says husband of TV anchor Nancy Parker after fatal plane crash," 17 Aug. 2019 In the pork plants that piloted this method, for example, USDA inspectors conducted an average of 24 checks per shift for contamination on carcasses, compared to 11 checks in traditional plants, the agency said. Suzy Khimm, NBC News, "Tyson wants fewer government inspectors in one of its beef plants. Food safety advocates are raising alarms.," 14 Aug. 2019 Our group piled into the back of an ATV piloted by Pontus Sjoholm, the hotel’s chef and our foraging maestro. Andrea Sachs, chicagotribune.com, "Forest to table: An invitation to a DIY dining adventure in Sweden," 12 Aug. 2019 While Eagle was on the lunar surface, the Columbia Command Module, piloted by Michael Collins, was orbiting 60 miles above them. Fox News, "Apollo 11: 50 years on, the Eagle lunar module serves as a reminder of mankind’s ability to innovate," 18 July 2019 The agency is also funding the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission (DART), which will pilot the technologies needed to do something about any threatening near-Earth objects. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "NASA won’t launch a mission to hunt deadly asteroids," 5 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 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

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

27 Aug 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

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).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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