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[path-fahyn-der, pahth‐] /ˈpæθˌfaɪn dər, ˈpɑθ‐/
a person who finds or makes a path, way, route, etc., especially through a previously unexplored or untraveled wilderness.
an airplane, or a person dropped from a plane, sent into a target area to illuminate the area for succeeding aircraft.
a radar beacon beamed into a target area to provide guidance for missiles seeking the target.
(initial capital letter) an unmanned spacecraft that landed on Mars on July 4, 1997, to obtain climatic and geologic data.
Origin of pathfinder
An Americanism dating back to 1830-40; path + finder
Related forms
pathfinding, noun, adjective

Pathfinder, The

a historical novel (1840) by James Fenimore Cooper. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pathfinder
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It had been arranged that Elmer was to act as pathfinder and tracker.

    Pathfinder Alan Douglas
  • So you see, to begin with, our pathfinder tells us the enemy ahead are three in number.

    Pathfinder Alan Douglas
  • Besides this, they must read the messages left occasionally by their pathfinder.

    Pathfinder Alan Douglas
  • pathfinder showed off handsomely that day before the ladies.

    Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • He was "the pathfinder," and second only to Daniel Boone as a frontier hero.

    Abraham Lincoln William Eleroy Curtis
  • When the pathfinder was struck the order was given, Every man for himself.

    The Post of Honour Richard Wilson
  • It is Kit Carson who might better have the title of pathfinder.

    The Way to the West Emerson Hough
  • Thus ended his first expedition, which began his reputation as a pathfinder.

    The Way to the West Emerson Hough
  • This exploit is worthy of description at the hands of the pathfinder himself.

    The Life of Kit Carson Edward S. Ellis
British Dictionary definitions for pathfinder


a person who makes or finds a way, esp through unexplored areas or fields of knowledge
an aircraft or parachutist who indicates a target area by dropping flares, etc
a radar device used for navigation or homing onto a target
Derived Forms
pathfinding, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pathfinder

1839 (Cooper), from path + finder.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pathfinder in Medicine

pathfinder path·find·er (pāth'fīn'dər)
A filiform bougie for introduction through a narrow stricture as a guide for the passage of a larger instrument.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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