[path-fahyn-der, pahth‐]


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 formspath·find·ing, noun, adjective

Pathfinder, The


a historical novel (1840) by James Fenimore Cooper. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pathfinder

Contemporary Examples of pathfinder

  • Eventually, he packed up his Nissan Pathfinder and drove back to Iowa.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Drug Dealers to the Stars

    Christine Pelisek

    October 20, 2010

Historical Examples of pathfinder

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


    Alan Douglas

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


    Alan Douglas

  • It had been arranged that Elmer was to act as pathfinder and tracker.


    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

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 Formspathfinding, 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

Word Origin and History for pathfinder

1839 (Cooper), from path + finder.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pathfinder in Medicine




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.