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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for payload

charge, haul, weight

Examples from the Web for payload

Contemporary Examples of payload

Historical Examples of payload

  • 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

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 aircrafta 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

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