pi·​o·​neer | \ ˌpī-ə-ˈnir How to pronounce pioneer (audio) \

Definition of pioneer

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a member of a military unit usually of construction engineers
2a : a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development
b : one of the first to settle in a territory
3 : a plant or animal capable of establishing itself in a bare, barren, or open area and initiating an ecological cycle


pioneered; pioneering; pioneers

Definition of pioneer (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to act as a pioneer pioneered in the development of airplanes

transitive verb

1 : to open or prepare for others to follow also : settle
2 : to originate or take part in the development of



Definition of pioneer (Entry 3 of 3)

2 : relating to or being a pioneer especially : of, relating to, or characteristic of early settlers or their time

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of pioneer in a Sentence

Noun the pioneers who settled in the American West in the 19th century the hardships that the pioneers endured while taming the wilderness Verb a painter who pioneered a new art form The new method of cancer treatment was pioneered by an international team of researchers. He helped pioneer a new route to the West. He pioneered in the development of airplanes. Adjective the nation's pioneer institution for the education of African-Americans
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Odd Future’s yin-and-yang leaders—were the pioneers of a certain type of genre-agnostic, free-associative music, and Brockhampton is one of its beneficiaries. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, "Brockhampton Grows Up," 2 Sep. 2019 The pioneers of cultural relativism were working against centuries of racist ideas and prejudices. Patrick Iber, The New Republic, "Pioneers of Cultural Relativism," 14 Aug. 2019 After beginning his life in the dugout with four trophyless years in France, the eccentric pioneer took charge of Spanish outfit Real Valladolid., "Helenio Herrera: The Innovator Who Single-Handedly Changed the Beautiful Game," 7 Aug. 2019 Over the course of the early 20th century, the pair, who were part of the city’s vibrant German Jewish community, acquired some 500 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints by the modern art pioneer. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Baltimore Museum of Art, Home to Largest Matisse Collection, Will Open Center Dedicated to Artist," 26 July 2019 In nearby Titusville, the American Space Museum and local businesses will mark the exact moment of the moon landing by lifting cups of Tang, the powdered orange drink that rocketed into orbit with the pioneers of the Space Age., "Apollo 11 at 50: Celebrating first steps on another world," 20 July 2019 Even fast-fashion pioneers such as H&M and Zara have stumbled in competition with digital brands such as ASOS, and Missguided, which operate no physical stores and can take products from design to sale in as little as a week. Lorraine Mirabella,, "Fast fashion fuels sustainable-apparel movement," 11 July 2018 Around the same time, aerial photography pioneers elsewhere in the world were experimenting with other methods. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "Aerial Photography Has Changed the World. Drones Are Just the Latest Example," 30 May 2018 Such is the life cycle of a pioneer, as well as the nature of competition and capitalism: Others build on ideas and refine concepts, catching up and often turning the innovator into a laggard. Jon Wertheim,, "How the Influence of Al Davis Shaped the Modern NFL," 27 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The pathbreaking marine biologist couple Thomas and Nora Goreau completed fundamental research here, including describing the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae and pioneering the use of scuba equipment for marine studies. Washington Post, "Surprise rescue of Jamaica coral reefs shows nature can heal," 17 Sep. 2019 The chef opened her restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971 and pioneered California cuisine and the slow food movement in the neighborhood that also boasted the original Peet’s Coffee and the Cheese Board Collective. Mallory Moench,, "Alice Waters says Gourmet Ghetto name should go: ‘I have never liked it’," 16 Sep. 2019 This is a fancy expression for selling over the Internet, which Amazon pioneered for everything. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Can a Mattress Startup Be a Tech Company, Too?—Data Sheet," 16 Sep. 2019 Trump pioneered the nonstop presidential campaign, filing for reelection on the day of his inauguration, and Parscale positioned himself to capitalize on it. Peter Elkind, ProPublica, "The Myths of the “Genius” Behind Trump’s Reelection Campaign," 11 Sep. 2019 In addition to allowing Frank to film them for a documentary, the Stones chose as the cover of Exile an outtake from The Americans, Frank’s pioneering 1958 book of photography. Jason Heller, The Atlantic, "Robert Frank, the Iconoclastic Image-Maker," 11 Sep. 2019 From 1990-2018, a 29-year span that began when Shawn Lyons pioneered the climb, 19 people completed the Linkup. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Hikers turn the summer of 2019 into a fast one, and a busy one, in the Chugach front range," 8 Sep. 2019 The county’s pioneering newtown, Columbia, was founded on the premise that people of different races and economic status should live side by side. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "In Howard County, a ‘courageous’ plan to redraw school boundaries tests community’s commitment to diversity," 6 Sep. 2019 The brand was born in 1998 ready to pioneer the market and revolutionize the Nigerian fashion industry. Ashley Rushford, Essence, "ESSENCE Best In Black Fashion Awards: Meet These International Designers On The Rise," 4 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pioneer.' 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 pioneer


1523, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1780, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


1836, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pioneer


Middle French pionier, from Old French peonier foot soldier, from peon foot soldier, from Medieval Latin pedon-, pedo — more at pawn

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pioneer

Statistics for pioneer

Last Updated

6 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for pioneer

The first known use of pioneer was in 1523

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pioneer


How to pronounce pioneer (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pioneer

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who helps create or develop new ideas, methods, etc.
: someone who is one of the first people to move to and live in a new area



English Language Learners Definition of pioneer (Entry 2 of 2)

: to help create or develop (new ideas, methods, etc.) : to be a pioneer in the development of (something)


pi·​o·​neer | \ ˌpī-ə-ˈnir How to pronounce pioneer (audio) \

Kids Definition of pioneer

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who is one of the first to settle in an area
2 : a person who begins or helps develop something new and prepares the way for others to follow They were pioneers in the field of medicine.


pioneered; pioneering

Kids Definition of pioneer (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to explore or open up ways or regions for others to follow
2 : to begin something new or take part in the early development of something They pioneered new scientific techniques.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pioneer

What made you want to look up pioneer? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a calculated move

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!