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  1. a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
  2. one who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress: pioneers in cancer research.
  3. one of a group of foot soldiers detailed to make roads, dig intrenchments, etc., in advance of the main body.
  4. Ecology. an organism that successfully establishes itself in a barren area, thus starting an ecological cycle of life.
  5. (initial capital letter) Aerospace. one of a series of U.S. space probes that explored the solar system and transmitted scientific information to earth.
  6. (initial capital letter) (formerly) a member of a Communist organization in the Soviet Union for children ranging in age from 10 to 16.Compare Komsomol, Octobrist.
verb (used without object)
  1. to act as a pioneer.
verb (used with object)
  1. to be the first to open or prepare (a way, settlement, etc.).
  2. to take part in the beginnings of; initiate: to pioneer an aid program.
  3. to lead the way for (a group); guide.
  1. being the earliest, original, first of a particular kind, etc.: a pioneer method of adult education.
  2. of, relating to, or characteristic of pioneers: pioneer justice.
  3. being a pioneer: a pioneer fur trader.

Origin of pioneer

1515–25; < Middle French pionier, Old French peonier foot soldier. See peon1, -eer
Related formsun·pi·o·neer·ing, adjective

Synonyms for pioneer

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pioneer

Contemporary Examples of pioneer

Historical Examples of pioneer

  • The pastoral interest is the pioneer interest of a new colony.

  • A pioneer is a brave fellow, with the courage of his own curiosity.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • Mr. Gladstone may be regarded as the pioneer of the movement.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • Why, he had promised me that I should have pioneer's rights in the realm of beauty.

  • He wanted to be a pioneer only in financial paths; and after all, this was our mountain now.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

British Dictionary definitions for pioneer


    1. a colonist, explorer, or settler of a new land, region, etc
    2. (as modifier)a pioneer wagon
  1. an innovator or developer of something new
  2. military a member of an infantry group that digs entrenchments, makes roads, etc
  3. ecology the first species of plant or animal to colonize an area of bare ground
  1. to be a pioneer (in or of)
  2. (tr) to initiate, prepare, or open upto pioneer a medical programme

Word Origin for pioneer

C16: from Old French paonier infantryman, from paon pawn ²; see also peon 1


  1. a total abstainer from alcoholic drink, esp a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, a society devoted to abstention


  1. any of a series of US spacecraft that studied the solar system, esp Pioneer 10, which made the first flyby of Jupiter (1973), and Pioneer 11, which made the first flyby of Saturn (1979)
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 pioneer

1520s, "foot soldier who prepares the way for the army," from Middle French pionnier "foot-soldier, pioneer," from Old French paonier "foot-soldier" (11c.), from peon (see pawn (n.2)). Figurative sense of "person who goes first or does something first" is from c.1600. Related: Pioneers.


1780, from pioneer (n.). Related: Pioneered; pioneering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper