verb (used with object)


serving as an experimental or trial undertaking prior to full-scale operation or use: a pilot project.

Nearby words

  1. pilonidal sinus,
  2. pilos,
  3. pilose,
  4. pilosebaceous,
  5. pilosity,
  6. pilot balloon,
  7. pilot bird,
  8. pilot biscuit,
  9. pilot boat,
  10. pilot burner

Origin of pilot

1520–30; earlier pylotte < Middle French pillotte < Italian pilota, dissimilated variant of pedota < Medieval Greek *pēdṓtēs steersman, equivalent to pēd(á) rudder (plural of pēdón oar) + -ōtēs agent suffix

Related formsun·pi·lot·ed, adjectivewell-pi·lot·ed, adjective

Can be confusedPilate pilot

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pilot

British Dictionary definitions for pilot



  1. a person who is qualified to operate an aircraft or spacecraft in flight
  2. (as modifier)pilot error
  1. a person who is qualified to steer or guide a ship into or out of a port, river mouth, etc
  2. (as modifier)a pilot ship
a person who steers a ship
a person who acts as a leader or guide
machinery a guide, often consisting of a tongue or dowel, used to assist in joining two mating parts together
machinery a plug gauge for measuring an internal diameter
films a colour test strip accompanying black-and-white rushes from colour originals
an experimental programme on radio or television
(modifier) used in or serving as a test or triala pilot project
(modifier) serving as a guidea pilot beacon

verb (tr)

to act as pilot of
to control the course of
to guide or lead (a project, people, etc)

Word Origin for pilot

C16: from French pilote, from Medieval Latin pilotus, ultimately from Greek pēdon oar; related to Greek pous foot

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 pilot
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper