Definition of pilot in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpīlət/


1A person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft.
Example sentences
  • Jann has posted a collection of conversations between airline pilots and airport control towers.
  • The following is an account of an exchange between airline pilots and a control tower.
  • He compared the procedure to that followed by an airline pilot preparing an aircraft for landing.
airman/airwoman, flyer;
captain, commander, co-pilot, wingman, first officer, bush pilot
informal skipper
dated aviator, aviatrix, aeronaut
1.1A person with expert local knowledge qualified to take charge of a ship entering or leaving confined waters; a helmsman.
Example sentences
  • Built of English oak and Cornish elm, they are traditionally designed and locally built rowing boats originally used to deliver pilots to incoming merchant ships.
  • He was also a ship's pilot, bringing sailing ships in and out of Fenit.
  • I believe I was the last man to leave the ship before the pilot.
navigator, helmsman, steersman, coxswain
1.2 archaic A guide or leader.
1.3 [often as modifier] Telecommunications An unmodulated reference signal transmitted with another signal for the purposes of control or synchronization.
Example sentences
  • In an embodiment of the invention, a particular mobile station transmits a pilot strength measurement message to the base station.
  • While the tracking sensitivity has been greatly enhanced by having a pilot signal, the extremely long code chosen has made it impractical to use it for acquisition.
  • The switch position of each antenna element is programmed for optimum reception during, for example, an idle mode which receives a pilot signal.
2A television program made to test audience reaction with a view to the production of a series.
Example sentences
  • Mulholland Drive was originally produced as a pilot for a television series, but it was abandoned because ABC found the plot too obscure.
  • The film was initially made as a pilot for a television series, which helps explain why the story is so convoluted.
  • I had once made a TV pilot of the radio programme with him and that had been an enjoyable experience, discussing simple issues like sex and politics with no mention of my childhood.
trial episode;
sample, experiment, trial run
3 another term for cowcatcher.
Example sentences
  • Today, people in the railroad industry frown upon the term "cow catcher," but the pilot is still in use.
  • Since diesel locomotives feature front cabs carrying crew, the pilot must be constructed to prevent the cab from being struck by objects deflected from the road.


Done as an experiment or test before introducing something more widely: a two-year pilot study
More example sentences
  • This year they announced a big, controversial change to rubbish collection and recycling across the city without any consultation or pilot scheme to test it out.
  • The government has launched an HK $85 million pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of smaller classes in 40 primary schools.
  • The pilot scheme was introduced in Great Ayton after high numbers of bogus callers and high pressure salesmen were seen there, and is backed by Hambleton Community Safety Partnership.
experimental, exploratory, trial, test, sample, speculative;

verb (pilots, piloting, piloted)

[with object]
1Act as a pilot of (an aircraft or ship).
Example sentences
  • Ellis and Morscheck were piloting the aeroplanes through a manoeuvre in which one aircraft rejoins the other five while flying in a formation barrel roll on January 21.
  • In 1979 he successfully piloted the same helicopter on an open sea rescue mission in gale force winds, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his skill and bravery.
  • The second reason was that Sali held a civil aviation certificate which enabled him to pilot any aircraft out of the country.
navigate, guide, maneuver, steer, control, direct, captain, shepherd;
fly, drive;
informal skipper
1.1Guide; steer: the task of piloting the economy out of recession
More example sentences
  • Larry, we're going to pilot that long-term solution in Jackson, Mississippi, by the end of the month.
  • The so-called ‘Overland Astorians’ needed a guide to pilot them through Crow country to the west.
  • Nine CEO David Gyngell has the unenviable task of piloting the faded No. 1 network over the remainder of this year.
2Test (a plan, project, etc.) before introducing it more widely: other schools were piloting such courses
More example sentences
  • An important part of piloting the coding scheme will be testing for consistency between coders and, if time permits, intra-coder reliability.
  • Thirty schools will be involved in the scheme, 13 in Lancashire, with 24 piloting the scheme and six acting as a control test.
  • The council plans to pilot the scheme from March 1, in Eggborough, Whitley, Camblesforth and Carlton.
test, trial, try out;
assess, investigate, examine, appraise, evaluate



Pronunciation: /ˈpīlədij/
Example sentences
  • Aimed at improving your sailing, it covers pilotage and navigation in tidal waters, selecting and reefing sails, interpreting shipping forecasts, mooring and dealing with emergencies.
  • An Electronic Flight Information System provides primary pilotage and navigation displays for the aircrew.
  • Evasive action after the bombing was also under the pilotage navigator's direction.


Pronunciation: /ˈpīlətləs/
Example sentences
  • The budget devoted $29 billion to the war on terrorism and $9 billion to unconventional arms like pilotless spy planes carrying missiles and laser communications system for troops.
  • The attack was conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency using a pilotless drone aircraft firing hellfire missiles.
  • The CIA launches Hellfires from pilotless Predator aircraft.


Early 16th century (denoting a person who steers a ship): from French pilote, from medieval Latin pilotus, an alteration of pedota, based on Greek pēdon 'oar', (plural) 'rudder'.

  • The aerial pilot appears earlier than expected, with the person flying a balloon being called a pilot in the 1830s. The ultimate root is Greek pēdon ‘oar, rudder’. To drop the pilot is to abandon a trustworthy adviser. ‘Dropping the pilot’ was the caption of a famous cartoon by John Tenniel, published in Punch on 20 March 1890. It depicted Kaiser Wilhelm II's dismissal of Otto von Bismarck as German Chancellor, who had guided the country for many years.

Words that rhyme with pilot


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pi·lot

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