the determination of the course or position of a ship or airplane by any of various navigational methods or devices.

Origin of piloting

First recorded in 1710–20; pilot + -ing1




a person duly qualified to steer ships into or out of a harbor or through certain difficult waters.
a person who steers a ship.
Aeronautics. a person duly qualified to operate an airplane, balloon, or other aircraft.
a guide or leader: the pilot of the expedition.
Machinery. a guide for centering or otherwise positioning two adjacent parts, often consisting of a projection on one part fitting into a recess in the other.
Railroads. cowcatcher.
Also called pilot film, pilot tape. Television. a prototypical filmed or taped feature, produced with hopes of network adoption as a television series and aired to test potential viewer interest and attract sponsors.
a preliminary or experimental trial or test: The school will offer a pilot of its new computer course.

verb (used with object)

to steer.
to lead, guide, or conduct, as through unknown places, intricate affairs, etc.
to act as pilot on, in, or over.
to be in charge of or responsible for: We're looking for someone to pilot the new project.


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

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

Synonyms for pilot

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

Examples from the Web for piloting

Contemporary Examples of piloting

Historical Examples of piloting

British Dictionary definitions for piloting



the navigational handling of a ship near land using buoys, soundings, landmarks, etc, or the finding of a ship's position by such means
the occupation of a 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 piloting



1510s, "one who steers a ship," from Middle French pillote (16c.), from Italian piloto, supposed to be an alteration of Old Italian pedoto, which usually is said to be from Medieval Greek *pedotes "rudder, helmsman," from Greek pedon "steering oar," related to pous (genitive podos) "foot" (see foot (n.)). Change of -d- to -l- in Latin ("Sabine -l-") parallels that in odor/olfactory; see lachrymose.

Sense extended 1848 to "one who controls a balloon," and 1907 to "one who flies an airplane." As an adjective, 1788 as "pertaining to a pilot;" from 1928 as "serving as a prototype." Thus the noun pilot meaning "pilot episode" (etc.), attested from 1962. Pilot light is from 1890.



1640s, "to guide, lead;" 1690s, "to conduct as a pilot," from pilot (n.) or from French piloter. Related: Piloted; piloting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper