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[pey-lohd] /ˈpeɪˌloʊd/
the part of a cargo producing revenue or income, usually expressed in weight.
the number of paying passengers, as on an airplane.
Aerospace, Military.
  1. the bomb load, warhead, cargo, or passengers of an aircraft, a rocket, missile, etc., for delivery at a target or destination.
  2. the total complement of equipment carried by a spacecraft for the performance of a particular mission in space.
  3. the explosive energy of the warhead of a missile or of the bomb load of an aircraft:
    a payload of 50 megatons.
Origin of payload
First recorded in 1925-30; pay1 + load Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for payload
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And I have only about twice the fuel supply you carry for a 100-ton payload.

    Atom Drive Charles Louis Fontenay
  • All the wrecks nest there while waiting hopefully for a payload or a grubstake.

    Turnover Point Alfred Coppel
  • "We could have postponed recovering the payload and helped you," Scotty said reproachfully.

    The Flying Stingaree Harold Leland Goodwin
  • Once the initial shock had passed, the body became an object only, a thing, a payload he had to deliver.

  • But those landing rockets and Lieutenant Commander Brown constituted all its payload.

    Space Tug Murray Leinster
  • But his hand moved over his pad and he made an impatient go-on gesture with his head, swallowing some of his payload.


    Cory Doctorow
  • Once Merlin and company knew the payload had fallen into the cove, they would be diving for it themselves, under cover of guns.

    The Flying Stingaree Harold Leland Goodwin
British Dictionary definitions for payload


that part of a cargo earning revenue
  1. the passengers, cargo, or bombs carried by an aircraft
  2. the equipment carried by a rocket, satellite, or spacecraft
the explosive power of a warhead, bomb, etc, carried by a missile or aircraft: a missile carrying a 50-megaton payload
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 payload

also pay-load, 1917, from pay + load (n.). Originally the part of a truck's (later an aircraft's) load from which revenue is derived (passengers, cargo, mail); figurative sense of "bombs, etc. carried by a plane or missile" is from 1936.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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